An historical map of Tibet. Click
Tibet, as a country, no longer
exists on the map. Its people, however,
exist still to remind us of a place--tucked high away in the Himalayas--that is high both
physically and spiritually.
The Tibetan people still live in Tibet, which is now part of the Peoples'
Republic of China. As fate would have it,
China, in 1949, imposed its will over Tibet through military
force, as documented by the U.S. Congress. Prior
to that, Tibet was independent with its own government, economy, language, culture and
religion. Over 1.2 million Tibetans, about one sixth of the total population, have died in
Tibet since 1949 due to political persecution, imprisonment, torture and famine. Over 6000 of Tibets rich religious and other
cultural centers have been destroyed. And
these statistics dont tell the story of the many people have taken a harrowing
journey across the Himalayas to the country of Nepal.
Not officially recognized by the Nepalese (who are not in a position to risk
alienation from China), the Tibetan people are accepted simply as human beings who have to
exist after their arrival in Nepal. Nepal is
a culturally-rich nation, and a favored trading partner of Tibet in ancient times. Indeed, the Tibetan religion of Buddhism
originated in Nepal (the birthplace of the Buddha).
His Holiness, the 14th
Government in Exile
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Spiritual and Temporal Leader of the Tibetan people, and
85,000 Tibetan refugees were forced to leave Tibet in 1959 to seek refuge primarily in
India, Nepal, and Bhutan. His Holiness
established a Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) which for all practical purposes
functions as the Tibetan Government in exile. Although
not formally recognized as such by the world or in particular by the host government, the
Tibetans both inside and outside occupied Tibet regard the CTA as the sole legitimate
Government of Tibet under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In the immediate years following His Holiness and the Tibetan refugees taking refuge in
India, one of the more urgent needs was a long-term rehabilitation program that would
serve to bring all the Tibetan refugees into homogenous Tibetan communities large enough
to allow them to perpetuate their language, traditions and thus preserve their national
identity, and of course where they could secure food, shelter, medical care, education and
a means of livelihood to develop economically self-supporting communities during their
period in exile. Most of the Tibetans
arriving in Nepal strive to emigrate to India
so that they can be near the Dalai Lama. They
cross over the frozen Himalayas, losing loved ones in the journey. They suffer frostbite, disease, malnutrition, and
exile in order to be free to live as they always have.
Tsering Dolma spins wool
at the Handicraft Center
Refugee Community in South Asia today has grown to over 125,000 from the 85,000 original
refugees. Over 70,000 of these exiled people
live in settlements; the remaining live in scattered communities in India and Nepal. Almost thirty percent of the total working
population is dependent on agriculture (including animal husbandry), a proportion that
rises to nearly half of the working population in the settlements. Thirteen percent of the total working population
is dependent on the handicrafts, mostly carpet weaving, which also provide a valuable
source of secondary income for many more refugees. The
total arable land of the agricultural Settlements in India and Nepal is over 26,000 acres,
of which three quarters is under cultivation, although only five percent of the land is
irrigated. Due to the increase in the
population the average land holding per household has dropped to about 2.5 acres for a
household average of 5.8 people.
Due to a lack of employment opportunities many in the settlements are forced to migrate
regularly in search of income. Nearly a third
of the adult population in the settlements migrates out of the settlements every year, a
proportion that rises to as much as four out of every five adults in settlements. Unemployment (defined as having no work for more
than six months a year) stands at 18.5 percent among the adult population.
Namgyal is only four years old
and, like all Tibetan children in Nepal, learns English as well as the Tibetan and
As a result of the foresight of the Dalai Lama and the then Indian Prime Minister
Jawalakhel Nehru, a number of schools financed by the Government of India were established
in the settlements. In addition the
well as autonomous schools like the Tibetan Childrens Village, run schools in many
areas were the Indian sponsored schools do not exist.
It is estimated that 80 percent of Tibetan refugee children are enrolled in Tibetan
schools, and a few more children in non-Tibetan schools.
The CTA has been able to establish Primary Health Care Centers in almost every settlement
in Nepal and India with a minimum of one Community Health Worker to look after the
preventive and curative health care needs of each community. Gastro-enteric,
diarrheal, skin, and respiratory
diseases account for the highest proportion of the disease incidence both inside and
outside of the settlements. Much of this is
a result of poor sanitation and hygiene in the settlements and camps on account of
inadequate water supply and related facilities. Additionally,
traditional Tibetan medicine clinics operate in many settlements with physicians trained
be the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute.
Housing facilities at the
Jawalakhel Tibetan Settlement in Kathmandu
Houses in the settlements were designed for five member families. In some settlements overcrowding has now become a
serious problem with up to ten members in each household.
Many of the houses, including those built as temporary structures, have not been
renovated since they were first constructed in the 1960s.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has on numerous occasions emphasized his wish to further
develop the Tibetan Government system into a more ideal democracy for Tibet and the
Tibetans, culmination in the establishment of a Tibet Constitution Redrafting Committee in
1990 to formulate a democratic constitution for future Tibet and a charter for the
Tibetans while in exile. After wide
discussion within the Committee, the Charter was passed on June 14, 1991.
Tibetan nursery school children at
Choempaling Tibetan Settlement in Nepal
The opening of the Tibet-Nepal border in 1980, and changes in Chinas policy to
allow, after more than 20 years, Tibetans to make pilgrimage and visit their families in
exile, have resulted in a steady flow of Tibetans from Tibet into India and Nepal. During 1990, as many as 2066 new refugees came to
India for resettlement. The number increased
to 2725 in 1991, to 2960 in 1992, and to 4477 in 1993.
This has posed a problem particularly acute among the youth and among those fleeing
religious persecution. Between 1989 and 1994,
44 percent of all new refugees coming from Tibet were between 14 and 25 years old. A further 17 percent were 13 years old and
younger, many left behind by their parents so that they can be educated and be near His
Holiness the Dalai Lama. Forty-four percent
of all the refugees in those years were monks and nuns fleeing religious persecution. The sudden and dramatic increase in the number of
monks and nuns, which more than doubled the monastic community since 1980, has made it
difficult for the already overcrowded monasteries and nunneries to absorb them.
Tibetans in Nepal
Most of the Tibetan refugees arriving in Nepal strive to emigrate to India so that they
can be near to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The
Tibetan people who remain in Nepal (and, indeed, the many who have been born and raised
there since 1959) have a special plight. Not officially recognized, they receive little
supporteither culturally or monetarilyfrom the government or the many agencies
that realize the injustices wrought upon this moral and gentle people. They are not in their homeland, nor in the place
of the Dalai Lama, so they must work hard to preserve what has been theirs since ancient
The Buddhist temple at Jawalakhel
What has been theirs, is a way of life. One
very foreign to what we know in the West, this
way of life can best be expressed in the practice of Tibetan
Buddhism. If you decide to look at the
unmatched Tibetan carpets found elsewhere on this website youll gain insight into the culture through
the uses of symbols, colors, and form. Mostly
traditional designs are stressed, their meaning explained as you peruse. Whatever you decide, we hope that you enjoy
yourself as much as we enjoy our association with the gracious and capable Tibetan people.
*Statistical data was gathered from the
Tibetan Refugee Community Integrated Development Plan II, 1995-2000.
Published in 1994, in India, by the Planning
Council of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the material is current to that date.