NEW DELHI, India (CNN) — Cloaked in a traditional flowing red and saffron Tibetan robe the Dalai Lama took a deep breath as he began to express his gratitude to the country that took him in as a refugee 50 years ago. “I think in this country (there are) many other refugees,” the Dalai Lama reflected, sitting cross legged. “But we are I think (the) most fortunate and successful refugee community because of (the) government of India’s care and support.” His journey to India was a treacherous one. The year was 1959. Tibetans had staged an uprising against Chinese rule and the security forces reacted with force. The Dalai Lama’s followers, who consider him a living God — the latest reincarnation in a long lineage of revered monks — were worried about his fate under the Chinese. He was, after all, just 23 years old. On March 17 that year, the 14th Dalai Lama fled his homeland on horseback.
A half century later, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people recounted to CNN that day and the subsequent journey to India. “Most fearful sort of moment is… (the) night of 17 March 1959,” he said. The Dalai Lama and some of his followers were about to cross a river on horseback when they suddenly realized they were within sight of a Chinese army camp. “Soldiers, yes, we can see,” the Dalai Lama said, learning forward, his eyes wide and voice strong. “We are very much afraid.”
The fear, amplified by the harsh conditions. The bitter cold and thin air of the Himalayas assaulted their bodies as they slowly made the trek over the mountains…
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