Tibetans defy China to mark religious leader’s death ritual

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

(TibetanReview.net, Sep04, 2015) – Tibetans in Nyagchukha (Chinese: Yajiang) and nearby counties of Karze (Ganzi) Prefecture, Sichuan Province, have defied Chinese orders by marking the traditional 49th day of the death of the prominent religious leader, philanthropist and activist Tulku Tenzin Delek, reported Radio Free Asia (Washington) Sep 02. He had died under highly questionable circumstances in a prison near the provincial capital Chengdu on Jul 12 after being sentenced, eventually for life, on a trumped up 2002 bombing campaign charges.

China claimed Tulku was killed by heart attack but tellingly cremated his body in the prison compound in a great hurry, rejecting his relatives’ plea for its release so that proper religious rituals could be carried out. The Chinese also seized his ashes when they were being carried to his home county of Nyagchukha and imposed a ban on all discussions about the circumstance and aftermath of his death. It also deployed additional troops and imposed other security measures, including communication restrictions.

However, ignoring the security and other restrictions, Tibetans in Nyagchukha, as well as Lithang and Bathang counties, marked the 49th day of Tulku’s death on Aug 30 by holding prayer ceremonies at which pictures of Tibet’s exiled spiritual the Dalai Lama, reviled by China, were also seated. The 49th day is the final day by which a dead person is considered to have left the bhardo, or intermediate, state between death and one’s rebirth.

Particularly in Lithang, Tibetans abandoned the annual horseracing festival called Rukyil to mourn and pray for the deceased religious leader. Similar festivals in the other counties were also abandoned with the local religious leaders and monasteries holding prayer services instead.

There is no information yet how the authorities dealt with the Tibetan defiance of their restrictions and bans.


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