Dalai Lama inaugurates monastery in eastern India

New Delhi, India - The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, inaugurated a monastery Tuesday in India's eastern state of Orissa, which is being described as the largest in South Asia. The Dalai Lama, who began his four-day visit to the state Monday, led the consecration ceremony in the presence of more than 300 Buddhist lamas at the Tibetan settlement at Chandragiri.

"His Holiness opened the Rigon Thupten Mindrolling monastery in a two-hour consecration and inauguration ceremony," Tenzin Taklha, a spokesman for the Tibetan leader, said by phone.

The Dalai Lama prostrated himself before the 6.5-metre-high Buddha statue installed in the shrine and offered prayers before addressing the devotees in Tibetan, the PTI news agency reported.

About 2,500 guests from India and abroad witnessed the opening of the monastery, which is spread over a 4-hectare area.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, lives in exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala.

The five-storey monastery was built at a cost of 80 million rupees (about 1.7 million dollars), said Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche, the religious chief of the Tibetan settlement at Chandragiri.

It took six years to build and has been described as the largest monastery in the region by local media.

"The monastery is fairly big and is among the largest if not the largest one in South Asia," Taklha said.

The lamasery in Chandragiri, which is one of the 35 settlements in India that are home to more than 110,000 Tibetan refugees, is now recognized as a tourist site and has already been thronged by tourists.