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I look barely 50, says Dalai Lama, as hundreds gather to mark his 88th birthday

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The Dalai Lama has celebrated his 88th birthday as hundreds of his supporters and exiled Tibetans thronged his hillside headquarters in India.

Artists played traditional welcome tunes as the Tibetan spiritual leader arrived to preside over the celebrations in the courtyard of the Tsuglakhang Temple, which was covered with Tibetan and Buddhist flags and portraits.

“We are celebrating my 88th birthday but look at me, I look barely 50,” a smiling Dalai Lama said.

He has made the hillside town of Dharmsala his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

India considers Tibet to be part of China, though it hosts Tibetan exiles.

The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.

In April, the Dalai Lama faced widespread criticism after a video circulated online showed him kissing a young boy on the lips and saying “suck my tongue”.

Tibetan children wait to perform at the birthday celebration

The footage triggered a backlash online with social media users condemning his behaviour as inappropriate.

The Dalai Lama later apologised in a statement posted on his official website.

It said he regretted the incident and wished to “apologise to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused.”

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