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Large religious festival casts serenity to Lhasa three months after riot

June 19, 2008 (PR China)
June 18, 2008

LHASA, June 17 (Xinhua) -- The first large religious festival is
being held in Lhasa three months after the riot on March 14 in
southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

The one-month-long Sakadwa Festival, the anniversary of the Buddha's
birth, enlightenment and death, began on June 4 and has attracted
many residents onto the streets to pray.

"I'm surprised to see so many people walking and turning the prayer
wheel for the festival. I thought it would be depressed after the
riot," said the 45-year-old Tibetan herdsman Joqong, who arrived on
June 10 from Nagqu county only for pilgrimage.

Wednesday is April 15 of the Tibetan calendar, on which day the
Buddha Sakyamuni is said to be born, enlightened, and died, and is
the most important day of the whole month's festival, said doctor Ga
Dawa Tsering, expert on Lamaism.

Tibetans believe in that any charitable deeds could bring themselves
merit and virtue, as the Budda had said to do one good deed in this
month equals thousands of deeds, Ga Dawa Tsering said.

Thus, believers of Lamaism have a tradition of doing charitable
deeds, including turning the prayer wheel, giving money to the poor
and freeing captive animals, he said.

Hundreds of people hurried to Lhasa from other provinces like
Sichuan, Gansu, Qianghai to join the prayers' march, with their
family members and pets.

The faithful began their prayers at 3 a.m. in the moonlight and
followed three major routes all circling the Jokhang Lamasery.

The Liggor Road is one of the most crowded streets during the month.
It is now resounded with the chanting voices of the sutra and
scattered with the faithful prostrating themselves devotionally.

Lamaseries have all opened to the public. More of the faithful at
prayer can be seen in the lamaseries, which are all wreathed by the
smoke of joss sticks.

The festival also became the day of the beggars since alms giving is
one of the good deeds. They sit along the major routes waiting for
kind givers, which is an original tradition of the festival, Ga Dawa
Tsering said.

"Days have been easier and more peaceful, so that I can spend more
time in praying," said a 72-year-old Tibetan pilgrim named Cering. He
got up at 6 a.m. and walked for the whole morning to circle the Potala Palace.

Another pilgrim, named Nyima, 67, seated herself on the grass on the
Potala Palace square for a rest. "I walk and turn the wheel every
day, for body exercises and pray for an auspicious life," she said.
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