Nepal Trekkings

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Festivals of Tibet

 

There are numerous festivals in Tibet; in the Tibetan lunar calendar, they appear almost every month. There are more than 100 major festivals throughout the year involving different activities, including offering sacrifice to gods or ancestors, farming, commemorations, celebrations and social contract. Tibetan festivals can be grouped into traditional and religious ones, but there is some blurring of the lines.

Among these festivals, the Tibetan New year, Bathing festival, Shoton (Yogurt) festival and Ongkor(Bumper Harvest) Festival are the largest and most distinctive ones. While all national festivals are celebrated in Tibet, the local authorities of the Tibet Autonomous Region also listed the Tibetan new year, Shoton Festival and other traditional Tibetan festival among the festivals and holidays of the region. This decision provides legal guarantee for the Tibetans to enjoy the various traditional festivals.

Tibetan New Year           
Of the traditional festivals, the Tibetan new year is the most important. The festival begins on the first day of the first Tibetan month. But preparation for the celebration starts from the beginning of the 12th Tibetan months in the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. On the first day of the first Tibetan month, people of the younger generation congratulate people of the older generation by saying “Tashideleg” (good luck and auspicious). This is followed by breakfast, during which they offer toasts with qingke barley wine. On this day, the street is almost deserted as all stay at home for the celebration or performing religious service. On the second day, they visit friends and relatives. Folk artists perform Tibetan opera and “drekar” (storytelling and singing) here and there. Such activities last three to five days before the Tibetans turn to Buddhist rituals held to make the deities happy. In Lhasa, the Grand Summons Ceremony is held. In Qamdo in eastern Tibet and the Changtang Grasslands in northern Tibet, people begin to take ritual walks around holy mountains and give alms to monks to seek a bumper harvest and good luck.

Grand Summons Ceremony
The Grand Summons Ceremony is the climax of the New year celebrations. This festival begins on the third day of the first Tibetan month and ends on the 24th day, lasting a total of 21 days. During this period, tens of thousands of monks pour into Lhasa, forming an ocean of kasaya vestments. The chanting and debating of sutras from the main part of the festival.

Shoton Festival
During the Shoton festival in the Norbulingka, people go to the parks to sing and dance and watch operas. The Tibetan opera performances bring each year’s Sholton festival to a climax. Apart from traditional plays such as “Prince Norsang, Nangsa Obar, Brother’s Donyo, Dondrub, Princess Wencheng and dreamed Kunden”, there are also wonderful programmes with a variety of local characteristics.

A giant image of Buddha is displayed during the Shoton festival in the premises of Drepung Monastery, so the festival is also called the festival of displaying the Buddha image. On the evening of 29th day of the 6 th Tibetan month, people rush into the Monastery to wait for the activities to begin. Early in the morning of 30th day, accomplished by the solemn sound of bugles and the burning of incense, monks carry a huge brocade picture of Buddha to the top of the hill, from where they display the picture.
Pilgrims clustering around on either side pay homage and present katag to the Buddha image. When the huge picture of Buddha is gradually unfolded, thousands of the pilgrims prostate themselves in the worship before the picture of Buddha, undulating like great waves. The sound of prayers echoes in the Mountain, the magnificent Buddha image is bathed in the golden sunshine.

Bathing Festival
During the one-week bathing festival, men and women, old and young, all in Lhasa and Xigase areas to the bath, swim and wash bedding in the Lhasa river and the Yarlung Zanbo river. Besides, they conduct all kind of recreational activities at the river side, holding get together, drinking tea and liquor, and singing and dancing.

Ongkor Festival
The ceremony is presided over a sorcerer, who meditates between human and the god. On the first day, laid by the sorcerer, people sing and dance to entertain and please the god. On the second day the inhabitants of each hamlet set off in the procession and make a circuit of all their fields, singing while walking. The procession is laid by sorcerer, who holds a colorful arrow, folded by monks with sutras in their hands and the band. At the end of the ceremony, people entertain themselves with singing and dancing and traditional contests.

Horse Riding Festival in Northern Tibet
The Horse-Racing Festival is the grand traditional festival held in the Northern Tibet’s Nanchu grassland for between five and fifteen days during the 6th Tibetan month, when the weather is at it’s best in Northern Tibet. People in the festival costumes rush to attain the race days before the festival. Tents are setup one after another. Everybody can take part in the race.

Today, the festival is not only a horse race. Instead, it comprises a comprehensive range of sporting activities in addition to horse races, mountain archery contest and the feats of horsemanship, there are also theatrical performances, movies, and the recitation and singing of the ballad Gesar by folk performers as well as large commodity fears for nomads. The Horse-Racing festival has now become a well known tourist attraction in Tibet