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February 13, 2009

Tibet's Great Prayer Festival

Tibetans recently observed Monlam, or The Great Prayer Festival, with prayers, ritual dances, traditional foods and giant tapestry-like paintings. Ethnic Tibetans are maintaining their traditional culture while change slowly comes their way. Chinese officials have prohibited the festival in the past, and still discourage participation, and more change will be arriving soon by rail as the Qinghai-Tibet railway between China proper and Tibet is scheduled for completion three years from now. Chinese government officials are now preparing for possible trouble in March, on the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when the Dalai Lama fled into exile, and tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. Foreign travelers have now been banned from large parts of western Tibet until late March. Several portraits in today's entry come courtesy of photographer Hugo Teixeira. (33 photos total)

Footprints carved in wood, which locals believe were made by a worshipper who prayed at the same spot for decades, are seen at a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 5, 2009. Local Tibetan monks and pilgrims gather to celebrate Monlam, or Great Prayer Festival, one of the most important festivals in Tibetan Buddhism. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)

A crowd gathers to watch Cham Dances during ongoing festivities celebrating Monlam, or the Great Prayer Festival, at a temple in Repkong on February 5, 2009, in northwest China's Qinghai province on The Tibetan plateau. The Monlam festival was established in 1409 by Tsong Khapa, founder of the Geluk (Yellow Hat) tradition and is the greatest religious festival in Tibetan Buddhism where the performances of masked dancers, known as Cham, always attract a crowd. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Local ethnic Tibetan villagers watch a giant "thangka", a sacred painting on cloth, being displayed on a hill outside a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 3, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A young ethnic Tibetan monk runs to a prayer meeting in a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 3, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A Tibetan Buddhist monk wears an elaborate head ornament during Cham Dances celebrating Monlam, or the Great Prayer Festival, at the Gomar Gompa (monastery) in Repkong on February 5, 2009, in northwest China's Qinghai province on The Tibetan plateau. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Ethnic Tibetan monks sit on a roof at the Labrang monastery in Xiahe, which is the biggest Tibetan monastery outside Tibet, February 6, 2009, a day before the Monlam celebration, or the Great Prayer Festival. (REUTERS/Nir Elias) #

Ethnic Tibetan monks attend a ceremony at a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province February 5, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A Tibetan boy, known to the locals as the "Living Buddha", is carried in a cart during a procession around a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province February 4, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

Cham Dances take place during Monlam, or the Great Prayer Festival, at the Gomar Gompa in Repkong on February 5, 2009, in Qinghai province on The Tibetan plateau. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Lamas and Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims participate in the Buddha Thangka unfolding ceremony at the Wutun Shang Tibetan Buddhist monastery on January 30, 2009 in Tongren County of Qinghai Province, China. Thangka is a kind of Tibetan tapestry woven with gold or silk, usually with an embroidered image of Buddha on the surface. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

Pilgrims carry a giant Buddha Thangka tapestry at the Wutun Shang Tibetan Buddhist monastery on January 30, 2009 in Tongren County of Qinghai Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A giant Thangka, a sacred painting on cloth, is unrolled for display on a hill outside a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 3, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A monk walks in front of the Thangka tapestry outside a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province February 2, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

Young Tibetan monks watch a performance of religious dances at a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province February 4, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A woman prays with prayer beads at the Nyentog Monastery, also known as Nianduhu, during celebrations for the Monlam, or Great Prayer Festival on February 6, 2009 in Repkong, on the Tibetan plateau. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

A monk who controls the crowd with a stick wears a mask while people watch religious performances at a monastery in Tongren, Qinghai province February 4, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

A pilgrim gestures in prayer while walking from stupa to stupa early in the morning at Sengeshong Monastery, also knwn as Wutun, during celebrations for the Monlam Festival on February 6, 2009 in Repkong, on the Tibetan plateau in northwest China's Qinghai province. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

A young Tibetan pilgrim pauses during a religious ritual around the Labrang monastery in Xiahe, the biggest Tibetan monastery outside Tibet, a day before the Monlam celebration on February 6, 2009. (REUTERS/Nir Elias) #

A Tibetan woman spins a prayer wheel at the Kumbum Monastery outside of Xining on February 7, 2009 in northwest China's Qinghai province. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Tibetan monk performs in a mask for Cham Dances during Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival, at the Gomar Gompa in Repkong on February 5, 2009. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Tibetan prays in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet February 11, 2009. (REUTERS/Emma Graham-Harrison) #

A Tibetan Buddhist monk stands amid a crowd awaiting Cham Dances during the Monlam Festival, at the Gomar Gompa (Monastery) on February 5, 2009. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Workers drive a front loader inside the Xianghe Tunnel, where the second phase of the Qinghai-Tibet railway from Xining to Golmud runs, on January 11, 2009 in Huangyuan County of Qinghai Province, China. The section measures 286 km (approximately 177 miles) with an investment of over 1.54 billion U.S. dollars. The construction started in September 2007 and is scheduled to be finished in 2012. The Qinghai-Tibet railway is the first rail connection between China proper and Tibet. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A farmer walks past piers of a viaduct at the construction site of second phase of the Qinghai-Tibet railway from Xining to Golmud on January 11, 2009 in Huangyuan County of Qinghai Province, China. The portion of the railway passing through Tanggula Pass will be the world's highest railway at 5,072 meters (16,640 feet) above sea level - rail cars have a built-in personal oxygen supply to avoid altitude sickness. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A young ethnic Tibetan pilgrim bows during a religious ritual around the Labrang monastery in Xiahe on February 6, 2009. (REUTERS/Nir Elias) #

Lamas perform a ritual during the annual Buddha Thangka unfolding ceremony at the Wutun Shang Tibetan Buddhist monastery on January 30, 2009 in Tongren County of Qinghai Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A Tibetan woman sticks out her tongue in a customary greeting while approaching a child at the Nyentog Monastery, during celebrations for the Great Prayer Festival on February 6, 2009 in Repkong, on the Tibetan plateau. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

In the presence of public security authorities, background, monks hold a practice meeting at a temple in Lhasa, Tibet on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/JAPAN POOL, Kyodo News) #

An ethnic Tibetan pilgrim stands on a hillside overlooking part of the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe on February 6, 2009. (REUTERS/Nir Elias) #

The view from a bus, Heading towards the 4,900-meter Tro La pass on the road to Derge, Tibet in late December, 2008. (© Hugo Teixeira) #

Lobsan, a local guide, sits in the hills south of Litang, Tibet in late December, 2008. (© Hugo Teixeira) #

An Innkeeper's family at a guest house in Garze Autonomous Prefecture, Tibet, in December of 2008. (© Hugo Teixeira) #

Men and women crowd around sellers of valuable coral beads in Litang, Tibet in December, 2008. (© Hugo Teixeira) #

 
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