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09november20093Exiled Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people today gathered in Dharamsala, north India, and Mundgod, south India, to celebrate Lha Bab Duchen - the day Buddha descended from heaven and also the birthday of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

In Dharamsala, the festival began at Lhagyalri, near His Holiness the Dalai Lama's residence, with prayers and incense offerings. In Mungod, Tibetans including monks from nunnery and monasteries include Gaden and Drepun gathered on a hilltop to pray.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a Buddhist spiritual leader from Lithang, eastern Tibet. In 2002, he was sentenced to death by the Chinese authorities for alleged involvement in a series of unsolved bombings. Following international protest, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2005, and he remains in jail.

Prior to Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's conviction, his birthday was widely celebrated by Tibetans in their home country. He was famous for developing medical, educational and religious institutions for nomads in eastern Tibet, as an advocate for environmental conservation, and as a mediator between Tibetans and Chinese.

After his imprisonment, the celebration of his birthday was banned, and the Chinese authorities made it an offence to display his photograph.

At the behest of his exiled students in India, the festival was resurrected in India last year, and it is hoped that it will become an annual tradition, which spreads to other Tibetan exile communities worldwide.