Tibetan Festivals

Losar; ( 1st – 15th Day 0f 1st Month of Tibetan Calendar)

Losar is the Tibetan word for “ New Year”. Tibetan New Year is a very special festival to celebrate in Tibet and it is also the most-awaited festival for all the Tibetans without any difference in age or gender.

On the eve night of the year, Tibetans clean all the negative obstacles, sickness, and bad spirits from their house and then they pray for a prosperous new year ahead. This eve night is also known as, Nyi-shu-Gu.

In most places in Tibet, Losar usually celebrated around 15 days, for the 1st 3 days are the main events where Tibetans go to the Temples and Monasteries & other 12 days will be celebrated with their relatives and family friends.

On the 1st day of the Losar is considered as the Lama Losar, from the very early morning, people well dressed with their traditional customs and with all the family members together they enjoy Changkol (a hot beverage made mainly from Channg & dry Cheese with some sugar). After the early breakfast, they go to the temples and monasteries to have a healthy new year.

2nd Day is the Gyalpo’s Losar or King’s Losar, traditionally it is the day for paying tribute to the Kings and leaders in Tibet.

3rd Day is also known as the Choekyong Losar, the day for offering the gratitude towards the protectors or the deities, by raising the prayer flags on the top of the sacred hills, changing the prayer flags of their home and offering the good smiles by burning junipers and incense.

The Losar in Tibet is the most special festivals for Tibetans and if you are able to make your Tibet Tour during that time of the year, you will be enjoying the Tibetan culture & traditions and will be a witness by experience the real life of Tibetans.

The Great Prayer Festival; (15th Day 0f 1st Month of Tibetan Calendar)

The Great Prayer Festival in Tibetan is known as Lhasa Monlam Chenmo, which festival was established by the Tsong Khapa in the 14th Century. The main purpose of this Great Prayer Festival is to pray for the long life of all the great gurus and for world peace.

During that time, thousands of monks from Drepung, Sera, and Ganden gathered for the chanting prayers and performs religious rituals at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. At that time also, they recruited the Ganden Tripa or the Throne Holder of Ganden Monastery, who is also the abbot. Also, all the monk candidates for the Doctorate in Buddhism Philosophy held debates and then offer the rank Doctorate and masters according to their examination performance.

Saga Dawa Festival (1st – 30th of 4th Month)

The Saga Dawa month is the most special spiritual month in Tibet, all the Buddhists are believing that, if we do good things, then we will have a double result of good things and if we are doing some bad things during this month, it will again double it. The Main reason behind is, historically in during the Saga Dawa makes the date of Buddha Sakyamuni’s conception of Being birthed, Enlight from the salvation & entry into Nirvana. People are very active in doing all the positive deeds and also going for pilgrimage to accumulate merits. Most of the Tibetan People during that day skip eating meat and at least for the 1st day of the month to the full moon.

Shoton Festival; ( 15th – 24th of 5th Month)

“Sho” in Tibetan means the Yoghurt & “Ton” means Banquet, it is a very wonderful festival and you can consider this 1stday of the festival as the vegetarian day because, on this 1st of the festival, people will take only the vegetarian meals only.

This Festival in Tibet was started mainly during the 17th century by the Great 5th Dalai Lama, during that time, the lay people of Tibet from the Nomadic area, offered the Yoghurt to the Dalai Lama and the monks, as most of the monks during that time, they are starting to go to retreat for 30 days to avoid killing the summer insects and to pray for them to receive a better life in the next life.

Later, this Yoghurt festival had added so many activities like Tibetan opera dance and these days, we are celebrating the festival for one week from the 15th to 24th of the 5th month of Tibetan Calendar. Usually, it comes in the mid of August or the beginning of August.

The festival is beginning in the very early morning by displaying the Big Thankga at Drepung Monastery & Sera Monastery, in the after the Tibetan opera dance will be performed. Travelers, if you are looking forward to visiting Tibet during this time of the year, you should be there at Sera & Drepung Monastery in the very early morning and then, you can visit the Norbu Lingka Palace in the Afternoon.

Zamling Chisang; Samye Dodei; (15th day of 5th month);

On the 15th day of 5th Month is the most special festival in Tibet. Back to the 8th Centurary, the Great Scholar Padmadsambava bind all the Bon’s Spirits under the commitment, and finally able to build the Samye Monastery. As the celebrating of this occasion offered lots of incense on the top of Hipo Ri Hill, which is in front of Samye Monastery and this special occasion had celebrated for 1,300 years in Samye and Tibetan area.

Bathing Festival ( 7th Day – 13th Day of 7th Month);

On this Starlit night Tibetans take a ceremonial bath in the waters of their local rivers and springs. This is a seductive and tranquil festival in Tibet. The Festival celebrates for one week from the 7th Day of 7th Month. It’s believed that people who took a bath during that time, will not get diseases and physically become very strong, especially as they will not get the cold during winter time in Tibet.

Butter Lamp Festival (25th Day of 10th Month);

Memorial Services Festival of the Great Scholar Tsongapa, who had founded the Gelukpa sect and also a great reformer of Tibetan Buddhism. In the oldern Days, the Barkhor Square turns into a grand exhibition site for Huge “Tormas” sculpted from the butter in the form of various auspicious symbols and lamps. All the Tibetans will be reciting mantras and prostrating around the Jokhang Temple.

The Harvest Festival in Tibet;

The Harvest Festival in Tibet is called a Wongkor festival in Tibetan. This festival in Tibet is very popular in all the farming areas of Tibet. During the time of Pudi Kongyal, the 9th king of Tibet and his minister Ruleikye agriculture developed significantly as they paid great importance to it. The Bon followers walked around fields and prayed for good harvest and slowly it became a folk festival in Tibet. So it has a history of at least more than 1,000 years. The main reason why Tibetans celebrate the festival is that they are wishing and praying that they can overcome all the natural disasters and enjoy the good harvest of the year.

The time of this festival is different from all the places in Tibet due to climate differences and also due to the differences in its elevation. When they celebrate this festival, people wear new clothes and carry Buddhist scriptures on their backs.

Besides walking around the fields, there are other some different activities like horse and Yak races and performances of Tibetan opera dance and circle dance as well. On the day, all the people in the farming village get up very early morning and they collect some crops from the field and offer them to the three jewels as the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. They also make offerings to the Naga or water spirits and the local land gods and pray that there will be a good harvest in the coming year. It is also the Thanking celebration for the local and Naga or water spirits that they had a very good harvesting year.

When the celebration is over people enjoy good food, drinks, singing and dancing with their families and villagers. They also invite their relatives and friends to enjoy this great festival together.