Rinpoche was asked to lead the Indian delegation to Tibet, where he would personally meet with Tibetan officials. On Dec 29, 1955, Rinpoche arrived in Lhasa, where he stayed for a couple of days at the residence of PN Menon, India’s then Consul General.
The Dalai Lama performed his first major “public religious act” on Indian soil.
The Government of India decided that in 1956 it will sponsor and organise nationwide celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s birth.
Vice President Dr S Radhakrishnan was appointed the head of the organising committee. The government also chose to appoint Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, the noted Buddhist monk and Ladakhi statesman, as a member of the organising committee.
In May, 1955, The GoI asked Rinpoche to coordinate with the then Gov. of Tibet (despite massive Chinese incursions into the region, Tibet still had its own government) based in Lhasa for the participation of the 14th Dalai Lama & the 10th Panchen Lama.
On Jan 30, 1956, Rinpoche had a private audience with the Dalai Lama at the famed Potala Palace in Lhasa. Rinpoche informed him about the purpose of his visit and spoke at length about other matters. By then, the Government of India had already extended official invitations.
In May 1956, Buddha Jayanthi celebrations commenced in India. On May 24, 1956, India’s first President, Dr Rajendra Prasad announced that the ridge area of Delhi, a large and green-belt area in the capital, was henceforth to be known as the Buddha Jayanti Park.
Departing Lhasa at the end of November with a small entourage that included the Panchen Lama and his older brother, Lobsang Samten, they travelled to Gangtok in Sikkim and later to New Delhi, alongside the Maharaj Kumar of Sikkim, Palden Thondup Namgyal.
In November, the Dalai Lama, who was only 21-years-old at the time, arrived at Palam Airport in New Delhi with a large entourage of Tibetan dignitaries.
At the airport, he was extended a welcome fit for a Head of State. The Indian government presented him with a guard of honour. Prime Minister Nehru and Vice President Radhakrishnan personally received him at the airport.
This visit by the 14th Dalai Lama provided an opportunity to undertake direct diplomatic exchanges with Government of India in particular, Jawaharlal Nehru, concerning the unfolding occupation of the Kham and Amdo regions of Tibet by the Chinese army (PLA). 11/n
Along with a massive entourage of devotees from Tibet, the Dalai Lama also performed his first major “public religious act” on Indian soil by going on a pilgrimage to some of the holiest Buddhist sites, where he offered teachings, including one in Bodh Gaya on December 27.
“On this special occasion, 1000s of people thronged the 7-mile route from Gaya to Bodh Gaya as the entourage drove through numerous welcome arches that had been erected in honour of their visit.
In his autobiography titled “Freedom in Exile,” he makes a special note before the visit. “I was ecstatic. For us Tibetans, India is Aryabhumi, the Land of the Holy. All my life I had longed to make a pilgrimage there: it was the place that I most wanted to visit,” he wrote.
The Dalai Lama often refers to himself as a “Son of India”, and his writings reflect how that sentiment began to permeate his mind even before his escape to India in 1959.
“I was able to give myself wholly to deep feelings of joy and veneration as I journeyed across the country from Sanchi to Ajanta, then to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath. I felt that I had returned to my spiritual home,” he writes in his 1956 visit to India.