DHARAMSALA, Feb 14: Tibetans and Tibet supporters in Dharamsala marked the 104th anniversary of the declaration of Tibetan independence at an event held on Feb 13 by highlighting Potala Palace, the winter residence of the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as a symbol of Tibet’s independent past and national identity.
The event organized by Students for a Free Tibet (SFT)-India at the Club House in Mcleod Ganj Dharamsala included a panel discussion on Potala Palace and its historic past, screening of a short video clip in which exiled Tibetans were asked what the Potala Palace meant to them, screening of a rare documentary titled ‘Potala Palace’ and a photo exhibition.
The panelists for the discussion on Potala Palace comprised of Namgyal Dolker Lhagyari, Member of Tibetan Parliament and President of GU-Chu-Sum movement for Tibet, Dorjee Tseten, Member of Tibetan Parliament and Asia Director of SFT and writer-activist Tenzin Tsudue who spoke passionately and incisively on the historical significance of the Potala Palace, its symbolism in the current Tibetan freedom struggle and the hope of returning to a free Tibet that the monument instils in the exiled Tibetans.
Elaborating on the Potala Palace being more than an attractive monument that China tries to present to the world, SFT-India’s National Director Tenzin Tselha said, “Today, China attempts to portray the Potala Palace solely as a tourist attraction. However, for the Tibetan people, the Potala Palace is more than an attractive monument; it is a representation of Tibte’s independent past and a symbol of Tibet for Tibetans around the globe. The Potala Palace is the manifestation of Tibetan architectural genius and it’s designs are a testament to the scientific understanding of Tibet’s natural landscape and weather conditions in ancient times.”
The 33rd king of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, laid down the first foundation of his palace and the palaces of his queens on Marpo Ri (Eng: Red Hill) in Lhasa. The Potala Palace was later build on Marpo Ri by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the 1640s. Since then, it has served as both the seat of the government of independent Tibet and the residence of the successive Dalai Lamas.
On Feb 13, 2013, Tibetans across the world marked the centennial of the proclamation of Tibetan independence made by the great thirteenth Dalai Lama in 1913. Since 2013, Tibetans and supporters have been commemorating Feb 13 as Tibetan Independence Day to counter China’s claim that Tibet was historically a part of China.
This year, more than ten cities around the world joined the Feb 13 Tibetan Independence Day campaign, including Dharamsala, New York, Toronto, Paris, Zurich, Bangalore and New Delhi.