His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso

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Eswar talks about His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, likening him to the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. Read more about His life and times, in the regular , exclusively in Different Truths.

Whenever I think about His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Guru Gobind Singh’s mighty warrior image comes to my mind.

From the day I understood the Tibet cause and started working for the cause, I became interested to know more about the history of Tibet; I was also interested to know more about the lives of previous incarnations of the Dalai Lama.


The first, fifth and thirteenth Dalai Lama played an important role in the history of Tibet. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama lived at an age when the whole world was mired by strife. His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama fondly remembers his junior tutor Trijang Rinpoche telling him that during the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s  time, the type of character that was in need was serious and tough and it was useful, and during his time, his soft nature was needed.

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama was at a time when Manchu power was becoming weaker and the British, and Chinese powers were strong. During his time, Tibet was invaded twice – in 1904 by the British and in 1910 by the Manchu Empire. After the second invasion, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama created the Tibetan ; till then the country’s untrained villagers came to its defence, as and when required. He drove the last of Manchu and Chinese troops out of the country and regained full independence and reunified Tibet. The thirteenth Dalai Lama restored control over the Eastern regions of Tibet, which the Manchu had incorporated into Chinese provinces. He declared the nation’s absolute independence.


The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso was born on 27 May 1876 in the Southeastern village of Thakpo Langdun. Just like every re-incarnations, after the life of Twelfth Dalai Lama, monks reached the Holy Lake, Lhamo Latso where they had a vision in the waters of the lake and clear indication of where the search team needs to head. At that time, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama was barely ten months old and the search team had to wait for a year to put him to test. They placed the prayer beads and other personal objects of the Twelfth Dali Lama in front of the child, mixed with the belongings of other people. The child, who turned out to be the Thirteenth re-incarnation, picked the belongings of the Twelfth and historical record says that the Regent and other monks were quickly convinced and immediately a public announcement was made. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama was eighteen months old then.

There is an interesting story of the young Thirteenth Dalai Lama, about his tough nature and hard headedness[1].  The great scholar Phurchok Jampa Gyatso Rinpoche was the main tutor of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. One day when the Dalai Lama was studying, something happened and his tutor scolded him and His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama lost his temper. He tried to prove that he was the smartest and the tutor got upset and said that if he does not study properly, then there is no use of his presence there. He reminded the young Dalai Lama that he had come to teach from a small meditation hermitage and that it was better for him to return back, if the young Dalai Lama did not study properly. And the tutor left. The young Dalai Lama, being hard-headed and tough, did not say anything to stop his tutor, but wondered if he would come back, which he did often. Since then, whenever the Thirteenth Dalai Lama mentioned the name of his tutor, he became emotional.

The previous four reincarnations, in the 120 years preceding the birth of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, did not survive the age of twenty. But maybe because of his tough nature, the thirteenth lived beyond the age of twenty and his was not a brief powerless reign of a boy trapped in the rooms of the mighty Potala, while others ruled in his name. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama rode horseback across the wilds of Inner Asia, travelled in automobiles, trains and steam ships in and India and camped in the Mongol ger[2] and lived in colonial mansions in Calcutta and .

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama fondly remembers that while he was young, he discovered the amazing history of the life of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama through stories he heard and he saw it coming to life while he opened boxes of gifts presented to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama by foreign envoys, which he had put away in the personal rooms of the Dalai Lama. The boxes contained clean monk robes and Mongolian styled clothes. There were also two boxes full of Western Shoes, watches from the eighteenth and seventeenth century and lots of brocades. There were also a wide variety of articles produced in China, Russia, India and in the West.

The Thirteenth Dalai Lama was considered very cosmopolitan for his era.

[1] The Story of Tibet – Conversations with the Dalai Lama by Thomas Laird, p212

[2] Round tent covered with skins used as portable dwelling huts by nomads


©Eswar Anandan

Photos sourced by the author.

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Eswar Anandan

Eswar Anandan

Eswar Anandan’s mother's traverse with Cancer opened his eyes and thoughts about the life outside the glass cubicles. In his own words: "Strong gave way to words, words took poetic form, and I found a new purpose..." His first book, 'Seasons' is a dedication to her.He is currently working on ‘Thoughts in Silence’ and ‘Story of a Nation’. Eswar is an entrepreneur and Friends of Tibet Campaigner.
Eswar Anandan

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