Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet to India was a milestone event in the history of the world. In a way it marks the starting of the Tibetan struggle for independence. Read on to find out more about this adventurous and historical journey.
In the spring of 1959, Lhasa and the rest of Tibet rose up in revolt against the Chinese occupation. One of the most important objectives of the Tibetan people was to ensure the safety of their spiritual and political leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was only 23 years old and hadn’t yet become the man we all know and appreciate today. He was a lonely and temperamental kid who had been thrown into a world he didn’t quite understand. On his 15 day journey from Lhasa to India, he found Buddhism while the world found out about Tibet and the Chinese exploitation of the Tibetans.
The CIA had been training Tibetan guerilla fighters to resist the Chinese occupation and they played an important part in ensuring the safe passage of the Dalai Lama to India. Of course they were motivated by a personal agenda and once their policies about China changed they stopped supporting Tibet.
Dalai Lama left Lhasa in hiding on 17 March 1959 with a small but trustworthy group of guards and councilors. They travelled by night to avoid getting caught in the dusk to dawn curfew laid out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. They crossed the mighty Himalayas on foot, braving extreme weather and terrain. They had to cross the Brahmaputra River to reach to the Indian side. Finally on 30 March, the 20 men group crossed Khenzimana Pass to enter India.
They rested at Towang Monastery for a few days before moving to Tezpur in Assam. Later Dalai Lama established the government in exile in Dharamsala which is now known as “Little Lhasa”. More than 80,000 Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile. It was a bittersweet moment as they had escaped Chinese occupation but had also lost their homeland.
The Lhasa uprising was short lived but the armed rebellion lasted till 1962 in some parts of Tibet. Today the struggle for independence continues with peaceful non violent protests and self-immolations in Tibet, India and all over the world. More than 120 Tibetans have self-immolated themselves in protest against the brutalities of the continuing Chinese occupation of Tibet.
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