Tibetan exiles on Sunday celebrated the 73rd birthday of their revered leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, but with no customary song and dance performances.

Hundreds of Tibetans and visiting tourists packed the Tsuglag-khang (Main Tibetan Temple) courtyard to join the official function, attended by top officials of the Tibetan government-in-Exile, including Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament Mr Karma Choephel and other senior officials of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The Dalai Lama’s birthday celebration, which is otherwise a joyous moment for Tibetans, was kept moderate this year due to sad and worsening situation inside Tibet since the March unrest. Tibetan people here honoured their leader’s birthday by offering prayers and planting trees for his long life and continued wellbeing.

Some 200 people from the Trans Himalayan region of India bordering Tibet, including Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Uttranchal, Utrakhand, Lahaul Spiti, Kinour, Kullu, Manali, and Ladhak, also joined the celebration this morning. The members were led by prominent social and political leaders of the communities. According to a press statement by the Trans Himalayan Parliamentary forum, the members on Saturday had a private audience with the Dalai Lama to wish him “long life and to express solidarity with Holiness’ peaceful struggle for the Tibetan cause”. They also organized a candle light peace march for Tibet later in the evening to convey their continued support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom.

TAIPEI, Taiwan: Tibetan and Taiwanese activists carried a “freedom torch” to the summit of Taiwan’s tallest mountain Sunday as part of a five-month, 50-city relay calling for greater self-rule for China-controlled Tibet, sponsors said.

The 21-member team took the torch to the peak of 13,035-foot (3,950-meter) Mount Yu and planted a Tibetan flag there, they said.

“From the summit of Mount Yu, they looked homeward at the Himalayas, praying for the early termination of their exile so they could return home,” said the Taiwan for Tibet Association, a local group backing the Tibetans.

Several of the torch carriers fled their Himalayan homeland and live in exile in other countries.

The Tibetan torch relay, which began in Greece in March, was designed to contrast with the torch relay for the Olympic Games, which open in Beijing on Aug. 8.

It is also meant to highlight Tibetans’ will to strengthen their autonomy and denounce Beijing for its crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet in March, said Thupten Chophed, an official of the Taiwan-Tibet Interchange Association.

Sunday is the 73rd birthday of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, making the Taiwan leg of the relay more significant, he said.

The relay was launched in Greece on March 10 and is scheduled to finish Aug. 7 at Dharmsala, India, base of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile.

China has governed Tibet since Communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India during a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.

Taiwan has criticized Beijing for what it says was China’s heavy-handed response to Tibetan demonstrations in March. China claims the self-ruled island of Taiwan is part of its territory, although the sides split in 1949 during a civil war.