Festivals in Tibet

Tibetan New Year

The greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times, when the peach trees were in blossom, it was considered the start of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 AD, the first day of the first month became fixed as New Year. On the New Year’s day, families unite, an "auspicious dipper" is offered, and the auspicious words "tashi delek" are greeted and exchanged. 

 

Great Prayer Festival

The greatest religious festival in Tibet instituted by Tsongkapa in 1409, the founder of the Gelukpa Sect, monks from the Three Great Monasteries of Tibet assemble in Jokhang for pray to Shakyamuni’s image as if it were the living Buddha. Philosophical debates are held among candidates for the doctorate of Metaphysics. Pilgrims come from every corner of Tibet and donations are offered to monks.

 

Butter Lamp Festival

It is the last day of the Great Prayer Festival. In order to celebrate Shakyamuni’s victory over non–Buddhist opponents, the Lord of Neu Dzong, a noted patron of Tsongkapa, illuminated numerous butter–lamps in 1409. The festival flourished since then.

 

Gyantse Horse Race and Archery

Horse race and archery are generally popular in Tibet, and Gyantse enjoys prestige of being the earliest in history by starting in 1408. Contests in early times included horse races, archery, and shooting on galloping horseback followed by a few days’ entertainment or picnicking. Presently, ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, and barter trade are additions to the above.

 

The World Incense Day (Saga Dawa)

Gods in heaven are believed to descend to the mortal world on this day. Incense is burnt in large scales and picnicking is done in public parks.

 

Six—Four Festival

It is believed that on this day Buddha gave his first sermon to his disciples. People celebrate the festival by paying visits to holy mountains.

 

Shoton Festival

This is the Opera Festival and the greatest of all festivals in Tibet. In ancient times, pious folks went into mountain hermitage to do penance. The last day, yogurt was served as meal followed by folk song and dance entertainment. Since the 7th century, opera performances were held for days in Norbulingka. Presently, opera contests and distribution of prizes are held for seven days.

 

Bathing Week

It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and can cure diseases. During its appearance for one week in the sky, all urban people in Lhasa go into the river for bathing.

 

Death of Tsongkapa

Tsongkapa, the great reformer of Tibetan Buddhism and founder of the Gelugpa Sect, died on this day in 1419. In memory of that day, every household burns countless butter-lamps on roof–tops and chant prayers in his honor. Late in the evening Tibetan dumplings are served for supper.

 

Driving Off Evil Spirits

At the eve of Tibetan New Year, 29th of the twelfth month, religious dances are performed in monasteries for driving off of evil spirits of the past year. At night, in every household, traditional means of driving off evil spirits are carried out by burning bundles of straw and throwing rubbish in the crossroads. The Year–End Dumpling is served for supper.

 
 
 
 
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