Oftentimes it is politics that takes the focus away from the reality of a situation by presenting a different perspective to suit the need of a particular environment. But there are also occasions when it is the same political considerations that highlights historical connections. One example of this is the sending of organized groups of Indian pilgrims to Gang Rinpoche (Mount Kailash) in Tibet, under the auspices of the governments of India and China.
On April 21, 2009, the Indian Foreign Ministry announced the latest group to be making the pilgrimage to Kailash later this year. The Kailash region is considered sacred by Hindus in India as well and there is a heavy rush to secure a seat in the group so much so that there is a drawing of lot to decide the lucky ones. Yesterday, such a draw was held. The Kailash Yatra (pilgrimage) reveals the historical connections between the Indian and the Tibetan people. The historical development relating to this relationship is summarized in the following way on the official website, “Continued from centuries, this pilgrimage had been stopped from 1959 to 1980, and when it restarted in 1981 it was welcomed everywhere.”
When this pilgrimage project started in 1981, I was then with the Indian Express in New Delhi, if I recall correctly. One of my colleagues there, Rahul Bedi, got a berth in the first group and subsequently wrote about it, including in a book. Since then very many Indian pilgrims have recalled their experiences of the trip. I am pleased to see that the yatra continues to draw the attention of the Indian people. May be this India-China spiritual Bhai Bhai will eventually lead to some positive impact on the overall relationship.
However, despite nearly 30 years of annual pilgrimages my Indians to the Kailash area, I frankly have not seen much “conversations” among Tibetans from the area or nearby about the Indian people. One reason could be the lack of chance of interaction between the peoples during the pilgrimages. Anyway, I wish the new group all success in their spiritual endeavor.