Mother of Dalai Lala Gives an Account of the Escape into the Exile

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It was in a nick of time because by then Chinese had picked the younger brother of Dalai Lama, Tendzin Choegyal to their military headquarters. They had also come to pick Diki Tsering by entering her personal chambers, but her attendant pushed them away telling she was not well. Disguised as soldiers by borrowing her son-in- law’s short fur dress to look like a man, and the too disguised as a soldier, they left the place. At 8.45 pm on the 19th, they left from the side gate and His Holiness followed them at 9 pm, followed by his two tutors and members of the Kashag1. Though they were surrounded by the Chinese forces, it was luck that they were able to move unnoticed, because the mist was very heavy and they passed through the Chinese headquarters, which was filled with bright lights. Earlier, the younger brother of Dalai Lama was also left free and he had joined the entourage. They crossed the river Tsangpo2 in skin boats and waited for His Holiness and his party, on the other side. There were hundreds of them. It was not until the 22nd the Chinese forces knew about the escape. They shelled the Norbulingka and gained entry and understood that His Holiness had left. They looked for him in Chensalinka3, then Chomolungo and Drepung4. There was heavy bloodshed in Lhasa. Eswar tells us about the escape of Dalai Lama and Chinese brutality, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

, in her book, Dalai Lama, My Son, gives an account of the escape into the . She talks about how the situation in Lhasa became unbearable because of the illegal occupation of the Chinese forces and draws out how it became inevitable that they had to escape. At the time, she was living with her mother, while her daughter and son-in- law were living close by. The place where she lived was Changseshar5.

She recounts how along with her daughter they were talking about means to escape, which included escaping as nuns with shaven heads! They even thought about painting black on their faces so that they would not be recognised. But they decided not to once His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama told that these plans were not possible and everything needs to be planned carefully so that they are not caught. In between, the head of Kagyu6 School, His Holiness the Karmapa had planned to escape because of severe Chinese harassment. He had sent his belongings to Bhutan. The Chinese had opened fire on the monastery, which was built on top of a hill.

The right time to escape was given as the night of March 19, between nine and eleven at night, as per consultation of the state oracles. In between, the Chinese had insisted that His Holiness attends a theatrical performance and that he come alone without any bodyguards; this brought in fears of a kidnapping attempt and thousands of gathered around Norbulinkga7 residence of Dalai Lama and the crowds grew to thirty thousand. People were begging and shouting that His Holiness does not go and that he would be allowed to pass only over their dead .

During then Diki Tsering was asked to leave for Norbulingka immediate and she had to leave without packing anything and had to leave behind her eighty-seven-year-old mother, which was the last time she could see her. Her mother had always hated the Communist regime and scolded them because she thought it was unjust that they took her property, which she and her husband had built with a lot of effort. It was in a nick of time because by then Chinese had picked the younger brother of Dalai Lama, Tendzin Choegyal to their military headquarters. They had also come to pick Diki Tsering by entering her personal chambers, but her attendant forcefully pushed them away telling she was not well.

Disguised as soldiers by borrowing her son-in- law’s short fur dress to look like a man, and the Dalai Lama too disguised as a soldier, they left the place. She recounts how they had sat up all night, on the 18 th , to sew the fur dress for Dalai Lama to be used for his journey.

At 8.45 pm on the19th they left from the side gate and His Holiness followed them at 9 pm, followed by his two tutors and members of the Kashag8. Though they were surrounded by the Chinese forces, it was luck that they were able to move unnoticed, because the mist was very heavy and they passed through the Chinese headquarters, which was filled with bright lights. Earlier, the younger brother of Dalai Lama was also left free and he had joined the entourage. They crossed the river Tsangpo 9 in skin boats and waited for His Holiness and his party on the other side. There were hundreds of them. It was not until the 22nd the Chinese forces knew about the escape. They shelled the Norbulingka and gained entry and understood that His Holiness had left. They looked for him in Chensalinka10, then Chomolungo and Drepung11. There was heavy bloodshed in Lhasa and what seemed like walking over a field of dried peas was actually empty rifle cartridges for miles around, as recounted by an employee of the , who left Lhasa after they had left.

As per instruction by the Kashag, they had not taken food supplies and the only thing Diki Tsering had carried along with her was a woollen blanket and a little Tsampa. The journey was mostly from midnight to the next day nine o’clock riding nonstop at great speed. The men’s short cloth without scarf and glasses made her freeze with a thick cake of dust over her face because of the heavy winds. She could barely stand because of cold, fatigue and cramps in her legs, and skin started to peel because of no protection from wind and dust storms. It was a week before she could wash her face again.

They escape team were welcomed by the peasants along the way who were good enough to bring food supplies and shoes and sweaters, weeping with sorrow at the fate of Tibet. There were two hundred warriors from the Kham 12 region, the Khampas, who were known for their horsemanship and fierce resistance to the Chinese illegal occupation of Tibet, guarding and escorting them. Their expertise when it came to routes helped the escape team without taking many wrong turns, though they did occasionally end up on the same road wasting valuable time.

At Tsonadzong, they heard a roar of aircraft engines and they thought worst was happening and they laid flat on the ground and the aircraft passed overhead and continued. Later they came to know that the plane was sent by the Indian government trying to locate them.

All along people thronged up to get an audience of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama.

During this journey, they even had to sleep in a loft above the pigs, since there was no proper place to sleep.

And finally, at Tawang 13, just over the border, the team was met by the Indian officials.


1 Governing council of Tibet

2 Originating in western Tibet, south-east of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar and later forms the South Tibet Valley before passing into Arunachal Pradesh, India and later reaching Assam where it is called the Brahmaputra

3 Chensalinka monastery which was fired upon by the Chinese

4 Drepung Monastery one of the great three Gelukpa monasteries in Tibet, the other two being Ganden and Sera Monastery.

5 The white building located between Lhasa’s old town and Potala Palace, the official family residence of Dalai Lama

6 One of the six main schools of Tibetan Buddhism

7 Summer residence of Dalai Lama

8 Governing council of Tibet

9 Originating in western Tibet, south-east of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar and later forms the South Tibet Valley before passing into Arunachal Pradesh, India and later reaching Assam where it is called the Brahmaputra

10 Chensalinka monastery which was fired upon by the Chinese

11 Drepung Monastery one of the great three Gelukpa monasteries in Tibet, the other two being Ganden and Sera Monastery.

12 The three main regions of Tibet – Kham, Amdo, U-Tsang

13 Town in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh

©Eswar Anandan

Photos sourced by the author.

#DalaiLama #TibetanRights #HisHoliness #Escape # #Bhutan #MotherOfDalaiLama #DifferentTruths

Eswar Anandan

Eswar Anandan

Eswar Anandan’s mother's traverse with Cancer opened his eyes and thoughts about the life outside the glass cubicles. In his own words: "Strong emotions gave way to words, words took poetic form, and I found a new purpose..." His first book, 'Seasons' is a dedication to her.He is currently working on ‘Thoughts in Silence’ and ‘Story of a Nation’. Eswar is an entrepreneur and Friends of Tibet Campaigner.
Eswar Anandan

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