Festivals in Tibet


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Tibetan New Year (Losar)

Tibetan New Year (Losar) is the most important festival in Tibet. It is an occasion when Tibetan families reunite and expect that the coming year will be a better one. Losar starts from the first to the fifth day of the first Tibetan month. Preparations for the festive event are manifested by special offerings to family shrine deities, doors painted with religious symbols. On New Year’s Eve Tibetans eat Guthuk (barley crumb food with nine different foods) with their families. Eating Guthuk is fooling someone in the family. The Festival of Banishing Evil Sprits is observed after dinner. Signs that the New Year is approaching when one sees lit torches, and people running and yelling to get rid of evil spirits from their houses. Before dawn on New Year's Day men go to offer first food to Buddha and protectors and housewives get their first buckets of water for their homes and prepare breakfast. After breakfast, people dress up to go to monasteries and offer their prayers. People gather round a large basin or bag filled with tsamba and take out handful, throwing it at each other. Soon everyone is covered with flour and the floor is white. The throwing of the tsamba signifies a happy new year and the best of luck. People also visit their neighbors and exchange Tashi Delek blessings in the first two days. On the third day, old prayer flags are replaced with new ones. Other folk activities may be held in some areas to celebrate the events.

The Great Prayer Festival from the fourth to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelukpa order. It is the grandest religious festival in Tibet. Religious dances are performed and thousands of monks gather for chanting in the Jokhang Temple. Examinations taking form of sutra debates for the Geshe degree, the highest degree in Buddhist theology, are also held. Pilgrims crowd to listen to the sermons while others give religious donations
Butter Lamp Festival

Chunga Choepa in Tibetan, falls on the fifteenth day of the first Tibetan month. The event was also established by Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. Giant butter and Tsampa sculptures varying in forms of auspicious symbols and figures are displayed on Barkhor. People keep singing and dancing throughout the festive night

Saga Dawa

The full moon (15th day) of the fourth Tibetan month is Saga Dawa Festival and the event marks the anniversary of Sahyamuni’s birth, enlightenment and entry into nirvana. During this time huge numbers of pilgrims walk lhasa Lingkhor circuit and visit Mt Kailash, where they raise a new prayer flagpole every year. Tibetans believe that month is the holiest and great chance to create a merit so people refrain from killing animals by liberating them and abstain from eating meats. Sutra chanting, prayer turning, Cham dancing and other religious activities dominate the occasion. 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 to the festive mood


(Yoghurt Festival) begins on the thirtieth day of the sixth Tibetan month. The origin of the festival started in Drepung monastery from the 17th century when pilgrims served yoghurt to the monks who stopped for their three months’ summer retreat. Years later, Tibetan opera performances were added to the event to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas of the Buddha are unveiled in Drepung and Sera Monasteries. Tibetan opera troupes perform at Norbulingka for a week.

Bathing Festival

The Festival is held in the 7th month of the Tibetan calendar, it lasts for 7 days from 6 to 12. It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky the rivers becomes purest nectar with curative power..During its appearance for one week in the sky Tibetans bring food, set up tents along rivers or natural hot-springs and bathe themselves under the star light. The holy bath was believed to heal all kinds of illnesses and wards off misfortune.

Nakchu Horse Race

The most important folk festival inTibet. People who gather for the annual horse race festival in Nakchu town 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 in early August

Gyantse Horse Race

There are different versions of the origin of Gyangtse Horse Race 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.