‘Land Of Buddha’
by Sudipta Basu
(The Telegraph. March 25, 2000)
HH Dalai Lama in Mumbai (Photo: Vikas Khot)
The Festival of Tibet 2000 raises questions on cultural genocide
and human rights violation.
Sudipta Basu reports:
There was a brief moment of introspection when Tenzin Gyatso, His
Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama delivered his inaugural lecture at the
opening of the 'Festival of Tibet 2000', in Mumbai, this week. The
spiritual-political leader focused on the 'cultural genocide'
and human rights violation inflicted by the Chinese government and
the tortures the Tibetans have been going through in the Chinese
occupied territory for over 40 years.
The six-day festival in the city has been organised by Friends of
Tibet (INDIA) and the Tibetan Youth Congress. Mumbai is the first
leg of a series of exhibitions that the two-year old group is
planning across the country. Following Mumbai, the festival will
travel to metros in South India over the next four months. Last
year, photographer Diane Barker's exhibition marked the preview to
the festival. 'It barely created a whimper and we knew immediately
that to raise an awareness for the cause of the Tibetans we had
to out forward an exhibition on a much larger scale,' says Sethu
Das, president of Friends of Tibet (INDIA). 'We needed a forum
where our voices would be heard.' The group had made an attempt
to achieve this by involving people from all walks of life at the
festival. Hence, films, photographs, food, dance and music formed
a part of the festival.
Among the films screened were Martin Scorsese film Kundun which
tells a story of a giggling child who transforms into the figure of
the Dalai Lama and raises the world's consciousness about Buddhist
society, the plight of Tibet and the suffering endured by her
people. The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet', a film by Ritu Sarin
and Tenzing Sonam, was put together using unique archival footage
and exclusive interviews with former resistance fighters and CIA
operatives. And Why Are We Silent? by Garthwait & Griffin was an
advertisement film in support for the cause of liberation of Tibet
from China. Reciting portions of the UN Universal Declaration of
Human Rights were Hollywood stars Harrison Ford, Richard Gere,
Goldie Hawn and Julia Roberts.
'Dances from the Roof of the World' packaged 21 traditional songs
and dances by the students from the Tibetan Children's Village,
Bylakkuppe in Karnataka. A group of 30 children put forward
performances from different regions of Tibet.
The highlights were the Ngonpa, ritual dance from the hunters and
masked dancers representing the Buddhist diety of Chakna Dorjee,
the destroyer of evil. Ralpa is the dance of the wanderers who travel
from village to village singing and dancing, spreading their poetry
and wisdom collected through their journeys. While Chanshae is the
song of the drinking in celebration of joy and happiness. Tashi
Shoelpa, the white bearded mask dance is the realisation of the
dream of fifth Dalai Lama.
'Butter sculpture' was a ritual done to mark the triumph of Lord
Buddha over his six non-Buddhist teachers who challenged him in
performing miracles. On this day every year — the fifteenth
day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar — huge butter
sculptures are erected, among other offerings. Later they are
distributed to the monk and lay people.
It takes a month for six monks to complete a traditional butter
sculpture. It is believed that by making such offerings, positive
collection of Karma is created. Since the climate in India does
not facilitate the use of butter, ghee mixed with wax was used on
a miniature scale for the purpose.
'Seminars and the films have also helped spread the news,' says Das
towards the end of the festival. 'And although I feel that people
in the South are more receptive towards such causes, Mumbai was
the best for starting the festival, because of the strong tourist
traffic and greater interaction between people. Other refugee groups
have also approached us to take up their cause as well.'