Hundreds of mostly exiled Tibetans celebrate the Dalai Lama's 89th birthday in India's Dharamshala

DHARAMSHALA, India (AP) — Hundreds of mostly exiled Tibetans gathered in India’s hillside town of Dharamshala to celebrate the birthday of the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, who turned 89 on Saturday.

The Dalai Lama has made the hillside town his headquarters since fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. Representatives of a Tibetan government-in-exile also reside there.

The main celebrations took place in Tsuglagkhang temple inside the complex where the spiritual leader lives. Tibetan and Buddhist flags adorned poles and railings.

A volunteer distributed Indian sweets to exiled Tibetan Buddhist nuns as teachers helped children with their make-up as they prepared to perform traditional dances.

While a colorful three-tiered cake was cut inside the temple, schoolchildren sang: “Happy Birthday His Holiness.”

Artists from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, dressed in traditional attire, played the drums and some marched with bagpipes inside the complex, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd. Then, Indian and Tibetan flags were hoisted, as the band played the two national anthems.

Tibetan and Indian officials sat on a slightly raised platform as photos of the Dalai Lama, some from his childhood, hung on pillars around them.

The Dalai Lama, however, wasn’t present. He is currently in the U.S. where he has undergone a knee replacement, according to his secretary.

Addressing the gathering on Saturday, Penpa Tsering, the president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, announced that several events commemorating the Dalai Lama’s achievements would be held throughout the year.

China doesn't recognize the exiled Tibetan government and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.

Last month, a group of bipartisan U.S. lawmakers met with the Dalai Lama at his Dharamshala residence, sparking anger from China which views the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism as a dangerous separatist.

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

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