Bodhgaya

The site of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. At the end of January 2003, the Dalai Lama was in Bodhgaya performing a Kalachakra initiation, an important Buddhist rite for world peace.
Some of the monks attending the Kalachakra. There were at least as many as three times as many monks in attendance as are visible here. Some of the monks attending the Kalachakra. There were at least as many as three times as many monks in attendance as are visible here. Monks participating in the Kalachakra, a Tibetan ceremony led by the Dalai Lama that is both a world-blessing and an initiation for monks. Monks participating in the Kalachakra, a Tibetan ceremony led by the Dalai Lama that is both a world-blessing and an initiation for monks.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama performing the Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. His Holiness the Dalai Lama performing the Kalachakra Initiation, sitting on the throne in the upper right, and surrounded by many Tibetan monks. More Dalai Lama, more monks. More Dalai Lama, more monks.
Field of monks taking the Kalachakra Initiation. Field of monks taking the Kalachakra Initiation. This is turning around 180 degrees from the last picture; there were a lot of monks. I estimated (trying to imagine the length of a track field, 130m) that the field was about 500m x 900m. Exact figures aside, the guys in back had a crappy view. Monk serving milk tea at the Kalachakra Initiation. Monk serving milk tea at the Kalachakra Initiation. From an ignorant foreigners perspective, the most entertaining aspect of the Kalachakra Initiation was when they would bring around food and tea -- it was like an athletic event, the "200 meter tea delivery" or something, the way the monks dashed in with the goods.
Happy monk, with tea, at the 2003 Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. Happy monk, with tea. More tea-pouring of monks, 2003 Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. More tea-pouring of monks.
Foreigners trying to get a glance of the Dalai Lama at the 2003 Kalachakra Intitiation, Bodhgaya. Foreigners trying to get a glance of the Dalai Lama. Foreigners were confined to an area off to the side, fairly far from the Dalai Lama; at a few points, when important parts of the initiation were taking place, they would dash up to the railing of inner enclosure to get a look at him, and then the security people would (rather nicely) escort them back to the foreigner enclosure. Monks performing part of the Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. Monks performing part of the Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. I've tried to get an answer from a few people as to what the significance of the yellow hats; it means that they're of the Gelupa sect, yes, but not all of the Gelupas are wearing the hats. Perhaps they're lamas, I don't know; if you know, let me know.
Tibetan man waiting in line with an idol at the 2003 Kalachakra Initiation, Bodhgaya. Tibetan man waiting in line with an idol. Again I'm pretty ignorant as to the significance, but at one point there was a long line of people that brought idols and offerings up to the central area where the Dalai Lama was, and where there was a large mandala. The Dalai Lama at the 2003 Kalachakra, Bodhgaya. The Dalai Lama at the 2003 Kalachakra, Bodhgaya. This is a detail from the second image. I should have some much better images of His Holiness (and everything else, for that matter) when I get the slides developed from my Big Fat Nikon, but we'll all have to hold our breath for a few months waiting for those...
My Tibetan-government-issued press pass. The first day I was here I sat in the "foreigner" section, which was far away and involved a great deal of sitting still. That evening I talked to a videographer and I lamented that I was unable to get a press pass, and she said, "Well, why not?" Why not indeed. The next day I told security I was a writer/photographer. They needed a letter from an editor. "But am my editor," I protested. "For my website. A letter from my editor would be a letter from me." That's fine, they said, so long as it is on letterhead for your publication. So I went to an internet cafe, made xenotropic.net letterhead, and wrote a letter endorsing myself. It worked!