Tibetan Festivals – the most popular ones
In Tibet, traditional and exotic festivals spread throughout the year and have been the most interesting events of Tibetan life. The festivals are either religious celebration or folk traditions, and usually include rituals, farming events, commemorations, celebrations, or just simply entertainment. Origins of Tibetan festivals are strongly rooted in the religious belief of Tibetans, as well as the way of life.
Known as “Losar”, During this festival, doors are painted with religious symbols; specially made tributes are offered to family shrine, Gala dinner is carefully prepared. At night, torches are lit and people run and yell in order to get rid of evil spirits from their house. Before the sunrise of the New Year’s Day, housewives fetch the first bucket of water in the New Year and prepare breakfast. After sunrise, people get dressing up; open their doors visiting their neighborhoods with blessing of “Tashi Delek”. Then go to monasteries pray for a whole new year.
When this day comes, a sorcerer’s dance is performed in monasteries and a thoroughly house-cleaning is done in each single house in order to get rid of misfortune and prepare for godly blessing. When night comes, torches are lit and Shouting are heard everywhere in a prayer for a brand new year without misfortunes.
It has its origin in a prayer meeting organized at Jokhang Temple by Tsong Khapa – the founder of the Gelukpa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism in 1409. ‘Monlam’ means ‘Prayer’ and at monasteries a great Buddhist service is held and ‘Cham’ (Buddhist dances) are performed.
The date of the Great Prayer Festival (Mon-lam) varies. For the three great Monasteries of Lhasa, it is from the 4th to the 25th day of this month when the monastery greets Maitreya. For Taer (Ku-bum in Tibetan, i.e., ten thousands images of Buddha) Monastery, it is form the 8th to the 15th day of the first month. For Labrang Monastery, it is from the the 3rd to the 17th day of the first month. For monasteries in Aba, it lasts for 15 days from January 1 – 15 of the Chinese Lunar Calendar; it usually has January 13th as the day for Thangkar unfolding
On Tibetan Calendar, April 15th is the day that Sakyamuni was born as well as nirvana. It is an important Tibetan Buddhist festival. During this fetival, People keep from killing animals, and refrain from eating meats. Mt. Kailash is one of the most important places to celebrate this festival. During the festival pilgrims raise a new flagpole at Darboche in Kailash. Tibetans gather to attach their prayer flags, to pray, and to help to remove the one for the last year, and erecting the new flagpole. A Lama leads the ceremony and the flagpole is raised under his instructions. After the flagpole is erected, Tibetan pray and throw ‘wind horses’ (little pieces of colored paper with Buddhist scriptures on) into the air.
In Tibetan, “Sho” means Yogurt, “Ton” means Party. Therefore “Shoton festival” means also “Party of Yogurt”. 6th month of Tibetan calendar was for self-cultivation to the monks, whom were required to remain in monasteries, or caves in order to complete the meditation. July 1 in Tibetan calendar is the last day for complete this holy cultivation, local Tibetan bring yogurt to serve the monks. Since a large amount of yogurt was served as meal and followed by entertainment of folk songs, daces…etc, therefore this festival was called “Party of Yogurt”, which in Tibet is the “Shoton festival”.
Khampas from all over southern China and Tibet come to trade, celebrate and ride. Khampas are nomads that are Tibetan and are usually herders. During the festival horsemanship and horse races are held upon the Tibetan Ponies. These small and fast horses are raced and shown to see who owns the best horse. The horse festival is significant because it helps to establish socio-economic hierarchy in Khampas who participate. A lot of honor and prestige is placed on who owns the best horse.
The festivl is usually lasted for 3 days, and has being held in Katok Monastery since it’s been created. It is an important religious activity at the Katok Monastery involving scripture chanting, prayers for rain. During this festival, Giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya are displayed on the mountains next to the monastery, and thousands of pilgrims flocking to the monastery to pay their homage to the Buddha and also to accumulate merits.