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The 14th Dalai Lama, his Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935, to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet. At the age of 2, he was proclaimed as his predecessor’s reincarnation after correctly identifying several objects that belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama.

The title of Dalai Lama is given to the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India disguised as a soldier in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. He since then has lived in exile in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharmshala.

As he turns 87 today, we take a look at some lesser-known facts about the 14th Dalai Lama:

  1. Though from Tibet, the family of the 14th Dalai Lama did not speak the Tibetan language. Instead, they spoke a modified version of a Chinese dialect spoken in the western provinces of China.
  2. The 14th Dalai Lama is the longest-reigning and longest-living among all his predecessors.
  3. He was enthroned as the Dalai Lama on February 22, 1940, at a ceremony in Lhasa, the capital of the autonomous Tibet region that is now part of China.
  4. He has received a series of awards for his work for global peace harmony, including a Nobel Prize in 1989.
  5. The Dalai Lama had a keen interest in science since childhood. During his younger days, he loved repairing watches and cars in his spare time. In his interview, Dalai Lama said that had he not been raised as a monk, he probably would have decided to be an engineer.
  6. According to his official website, Dalai Lama wakes at 3 AM and meditates till 5 AM, after which he takes a short morning walk around the residential premises. His Holiness typically has a breakfast of porridge and tsampa, traditional barley flour and spends the morning reading Buddhist texts, before holding audiences in the afternoon.

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