In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped Chinese-occupied Tibet and took up residence in the hill town of McLeod Ganj, India.

Perched on a steep hillside overlooking Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj became the new seat for the Tibetan Government and a place of refuge for thousands of Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama into exile.

Over the ensuing years, the small refugee settlement evolved into a major centre for the preservation of Tibetan religion, arts, culture and education and an important tourist and pilgrimage destination.

In this place of sanctuary exiled Tibetans are free to both worship and protest – freedoms denied to them in Tibet.

In late 2012, escalating demonstrations, vigils and prayer meetings focused the world’s attention on a spate of self-immolations in Tibet and provided a means for turning thoughts and passion into action.

8 November, 2012 - Martyrs Memorial, Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Commemorated in stone. The Martyrs’ Memorial and Pillar has become a focal point for moving speeches and silent vigils in memory of thousands of Tibetans who have suffered and died throughout the years of Chinese repression inside Tibet.

27 October, 2012 - Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Tibetan monks engage in the centuries’ old practice of debate, an essential part of monastic study. While a seated defender asserts a tenet of Buddhist philosophy, challengers energetically punctuate their counter-argument with dramatic gestures, hand clapping and foot stamping.

11 November 2012 - Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Tibetan Monks attend a morning teaching at the Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama's own temple and the most important Buddhist site within the refugee settlement.

7 November, 2012 - Norbulingka Institute, Sidhpur

A student of traditional Tibetan wood carving practices his craft in one of the studios at Norbulingka Institute.

7 November, 2012 - Norbulingka Institute, Sidhpur

Established in 1988, Norbulingka Institute is dedicated to preserving traditional Tibetan crafts outside of Tibet such as statue making, thangka painting, screen-printing, applique and tailoring, wood and metal craft and papermaking.

10 October, 2012 - Tibetan Children’s Village School, McLeod Ganj

The Tibetan Children's Village School celebrates its 52nd anniversary. Dressed as Chinese soldiers, school students re-enact the occupation of Tibet in 1959 by Chinese invading forces.

10 October, 2012 - Tibetan Children’s Village School, McLeod Ganj

A young Tibetan student dressed as a self-immolating 'martyr' awaits his turn in a school performance which recounts the Chinese occupation of Tibet.


7 November, 2012

As the Chinese government remains unflinching in its hardline repression of occupied Tibet, a growing sense of desperation has resulted in the horrifying escalation of self-immolation within Tibet, reaching critical proportions in late 2012.

November 7th 2012 was the most fatal day with news of five Tibetans setting themselves alight within 24 hours, triggering the largest demonstration yet in McLeod Ganj. The latest victims were Tamding Tso, a 23 year old mother from Drorong Po village in Rebkong, 3 monks aged 15 and 16 from Ngoshul Monastery and Tsegyal, a 27 year old man from Bankar village. But even as the demonstration got underway, word arrived that another man had died in Rebkong bringing the total number of self-immolations to 70.


8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

The Tibetan Youth Congress leads demonstrators through the streets of McLeod Ganj following six self-immolations in Tibet in two days.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

A young nun waves the Tibetan flag, outlawed in Tibet, during the largest of the self-immolation protests in McLeod Ganj.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

Chants of ‘China out’ in the main square of McLeod Ganj.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

Chants of ‘China out’ in the main square of McLeod Ganj as exiled Tibetans are joined in solidarity by monks, nuns and other supporters of freedom for Tibet.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

Tibetan monks have been at the forefront of a non-violent struggle for freedom in Tibet. As evening draws in, monks from Namgyal monastery solemnly take to the streets for a candlelight vigil following the news of yet another self-immolation inside Tibet.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

An old Tibetan nun pauses in a sea of Tibetan flags as marchers enter the gates of the Tsuglagkhang.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

Blessings from a Tibetan nun as marchers approach the Martyrs’ Memorial.

8 November, 2012 - Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

The protest march concludes in the grounds of Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama's temple. Here, members of Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan Youth Congress address the demonstrators and a prayer vigil continues well into the night.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj   Tibetan monks, lay people and supporters fill the streets of McLeod Ganj for yet another protest march following the distressing news of the 70th self-immolation inside Tibet.

8 November, 2012 - McLeod Ganj

Tibetan monks, lay people and supporters fill the streets of McLeod Ganj for yet another protest march following the distressing news of the 70th self-immolation inside Tibet.

26 October, 2012 – Martyrs Memorial, Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Monks attending a vigil for Tenzin and Tsepo, two monks in their 20's from Bankar Monastery who set themselves alight outside a Chinese Government building in Nagchu, and Lhamo Tseten who self-immolated in Amchok, Amdo Province.

Theirs were the 59th, 60th and 61st self-immolations in Tibet.

26 October, 2012 – Martyrs Memorial, Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Young Tibetan monks attend a candlelight vigil following the news of three more self-immolations in Tibet.

 

4 November, 2012 – Martyrs Memorial, Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

A Tibetan woman recites prayers for Dorjee Lhundrup, a farmer in his mid-twenties who set himself alight in Chuma Village in Rebkong, Tibet.

He was the 63rd person to self-immolate in protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

4 November, 2012 – Martyrs Memorial, Tsuglagkhang Temple, McLeod Ganj

Draped in silk kata dedications, a Tibetan protester simulates the charred body of self-immolator Dorjee Lhundrup, a farmer in his mid-twenties from Chuma Village, Rebkong, Tibet.


He was the 63rd person to self-immolate in protest of the Chinese Occupation of Tibet

22 October, 2012 – Tibetan Childrens Village School, McLeod Ganj

A Tibetan protestor holds images of 61 year old Dhondup who set himself alight in Labrang, Tibet.

Dhondup’s self-immolation was the 57th in ongoing protests against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.