It has been 23 years since the Chinese government took Panchen Lama, the second most prominent spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, into custody. Considered one of the longest serving political prisoners in the world, the whereabouts of the then six-year-old Panchen Lama remains unclear.
Despite widespread hue and cry from the Tibetan community, calls for his release have lost voice over the years. To remind the world of this political kidnaping by China, and to demand his release, over 200 Tibetans in Karnataka’s Bylakuppe have attempted to break a Guinness world record.
On 25 April 2018, on the Panchen Lama’s 29th birthday, members of the Tibetan community in the Bylakuppe in Coorg lit more than 1.3 lakh candles on a cake.
The current record for “most candles lit on a birthday cake” stands at 72,585, set by Ashrita Furman and members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre. To break this record, the 200 Tibetans zeroed in on the number 1,30,232 candles — the estimated population of Tibetans living in exile.
They said that their effort to break the world record was an attempt to gather support to get Panchen Lama released.
Who is Panchen Lama?
Pachen Lama is the second highest spiritual leader for the Tibetans, after the Dalai Lama. On 14 May 1995, six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet.
But three days after this announcement, the Chinese government took him and his family into custody. Since then his whereabouts have been unknown and he is considered one of the longest serving political prisoners in the world.
Three days before Nyima’s 29th birthday, quoting reliable sources, the Dalai Lama said that the Panchen Lama is still alive.
Breaking a Record to Garner Attention
Tenzin Tselha, National Director for Students for Free Tibet, told The Quint that the entire process took months of preparation. However, it is not over yet as in order to get recognition for their record, the Tibetan community must send an official application. “The process of getting the record certified requires at least two independent observers, and also the entire process has to be recorded. We have done it and we will sending them (an application) for approval,” she said.
Tselha, however, added that more than the record, they wanted to world recognise that an important leader of the Tibetan community has been political prisoner for 29 years.