|Lhosar (Tibetan New Year)
Tibetan New Year is the most important festival in Tibet. It is an
occasion when Tibetan families reunite and expect a better coming
year. Known as Losar, the festival starts from 1st to 3rd of the 1st
Tibetan month. Specially made offerings are offered to family shrine
deities; doors are painted with religious symbols; other painstaking
jobs are done to prepare for the event. On the New Year's Eve, Tibetans
eat barley crumb food (Guthuk in Tibetan) with their families and
have fun since the barley crumbs are stuffed with different stuffing
to fool someone in the family. After the dinner it is the Festival
of Banishing Evil Sprits! Torches are lit and people are running and
yelling to get rid of evil spirits from their houses. The New Year
is coming! Before the dawn on the New Year's Day, housewives fetch
their first buckets of water in the new year home and prepare breakfast.
After dressing up, people open their doors upon prayers and go to
monasteries. People visit their neighborhoods and exchange their Tashi
Delek blessings in the first two days. Feast is the theme during the
session. On the third day, old prayer flags will be replaced with
new ones. Other folk activities may be held in some areas to celebrate
Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival, falls on 4th -11th day of the 1st
Tibetan month. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the
founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order. As the grandest
religious festival in Tibet, religious dances are performed and thousands
of monks gather for chanting before the Jokhang Temple. Examination
for Geshe degree (the highest degree in Buddhist theology), taking
form of sutra debates, are held. Pilgrims crowd to listen to sermons
and to make religious donations.
Chunga Choepa (The Butter Lamp Festival)
The Butter Lamp Festival, Chunga Choepa in Tibetan, falls on 15th
day of the 1st Tibetan month. The event was also established by
Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics
in a religious debate. Various giant butter and Tsampa sculptures,
in forms of auspicious symbols and figures, are displayed on Barkhor.
People keep singing and dancing throughout the festive night.
Saka Dawa Festival
On the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month is Saka Dawa Festival.
The day is believed to be the day when Sakyamuni was born, step
into Buddhahood and attained nirvana. Tibetans believe that one
merit equals myriads of merits accumulated the other days. People
keep from killing animals, refrain from eating meats and liberate
animals. Sutra chanting, prayer turning, Cham dancing and other
religious activities dominate the session. Offering sacrifices to
the female deity enshrined in the temple on the islet of the Dragon
King Pond, boating in the pond and picnicking add more festive mood.
Yoghurt or Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival (also Yoghurt Festival) begins on the 30th of the
6th Tibetan month. The origin of the festival started from the 17th
century. When monks stopped their summer retreat which was intended
not to kill newly hatched insects, pilgrims came to serve them with
yogurt. Later Tibetan opera performances were added to the event
to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas
of the Buddha is unveiled in Drepung Monastery and Tibetan opera
troupes perform operas at Norbulingka.
Bathing Festival starts on 27th of the 7th lunar month and lasts
a week, when Venus appears in the sky. Tibetans brings food and
set up tents along rivers and bathe themselves in star light. The
holy bath is considered to be able to heal all diseases and get
rid of misfortune.
Nakchu Horse Race Festival
Nakchu Horse Race Festival is a most important folk festival in
Tibet. People gather in Nakchu town and construct a tent city. Dressing
themselves and their finest horse, thousands of herdsmen participate
in the thrilling horse race, archery and horsemanship contest. Other
folk activities and commodity fairs are also held. The event falls
on the early august annually.
Gyangtse Horse Rave Festival
There are different versions of the origin of Gyangtse Horse Rave
Festival, which is also popular throughout Tibet. The festival usually
falls in June. Horse race, archery contest, and other games are
performed to entertain people. Religious activities also are part
of the event.
Buddha Unfolding Festival
Buddha Unfolding Festival is celebrated in Tashilhunpo Monastery
from 14th to 16th of the 5th Tibetan month. Unbelievable giant Thangkas
of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya will be displayed on the monastery's
Thangka Wall successively. Thousands of pilgrims rush to the monastery
to pay their offerings to the Buddhas and accumulate their merits.
The tradition has lasted for 500 years.
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival falls on 25th day of the 10th Tibetan
month, when myriads of butter lamps are lit on rooftops, and prayers
are chanted, to memorize the passing away of Tsong Khapa who was
a great religious reformer and adept in Buddhism.
Choekhor Duechcen Festival
Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival, Choekhor Duechcen in
Tibetan, falling on 4th of the 6th Tibetan month, is to commemorate
Sakyamuni's first sermon. People, in their best conduct during the
session, go to monasteries to pay homage to the Buddha. Circumambulation
around mountains is the popular practice in the festival. Picnicking,
singing and dancing are also part of the activities.
Zamling Chisang (Universal Prayers Festival)
Universal Prayers Festival, Zamling Chisang in Tibetan, falls on
15th of the 5th Tibetan month. The event is to commemorate Padmasambhava's
Subjugation of evil spirits. People go to monasteries and burn juniper
Ongkor (Harvest Festival)
Harvest Festival, Ongkor in Tibetan, is celebrated when crops ripen,
usually around August. The festival is celebrated only in farming
villages. People walk around field to bless for a harvest year.
Singing, dancing, and horseracing are indispensable folk activities.
(Converted timetable of festival events from 2002 to 2005)