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Large religious festival casts serenity to Lhasa three months after riot
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08:32, June 18, 2008

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· Riots in Lhasa
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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.

Source: Xinhua

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