Losar Festival - The Tibetan New Year (2016)
Losar, The Tibetan New Year,
will be celebrated on
8 February 2016.
Losar - Tibetan New Year
Monpa dance during the Losar Festival Of Arunachal Pradesh
About Losar Festival
Losar is the biggest festival of the Buddhists in Tibet.
The word Losar is a Tibetan word in which Lo means year and sar means new and Losar arks the beginning of the new year for Buddhists.
The Tibetan new year is the same as the Chinese new year, but a day before or after it.
Tibetans follow the luni solar calendar and their new year is celebrated on the first day of the first month of their calendar. The date of Losar festival is dependent on the moon phase as well as the time of the solar year and usually falls in the month of January to March according to the Gregorian calendar.
Festivities begin on the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar.This festival is celebrated in Tibet predominantly as well as in India, Bhutan & Nepal. In India, it is celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh in Kashmir.
Different traditions and rituals are followed on this occasion but they are unique to Tibet. People dress in the finest traditional clothes and jewellery.
In Arunachal Pradesh the Monpas of the Tawang tribe and the Memba tribe of the Machuka valley also celebrate this festival, though the Memba tribe celebrate it one month before the Tibetans and Losar festival marks their new year as well.
Gumpa Dance On Losar
Losar Festival 2013 at Boudhanath Stupa
Losar Celebrations And Rituals
Though Losar is a three day festival some people carry on these festivities from 10 to 15 days as well. Preparations start almost a month ahead with homes being cleaned and painted, decorated attractively with a variety of decorations and offerings of "Lama Losar" are made.
The 8 Tibetan auspicious symbols are drawn on the walls using white powder. The symbols are; the parasol, two golden fish, the conch shell, the lotus blossom, the banner of victory, the vase, the dharma wheel and the eternal knot.
In the monasteries, monks offer devotional rituals to the deities.
On New year's eve breads, cakes, candies and fruits and beer are offered on the family altars.
Guthuk, a traditional noodle soup, made from 9 different ingredients like wheat, rice, vermicelli, some vegetables, cheese and meat is prepared ans also small dumplings.
These dumplings filled with 9 different fortune symbols are also given on this occasion.
The 3 Day Celebrations
On the First day of the New year the lady of the house prepares a pot of barley wine for the family. At sunrise she heads off to the close by river and brings in the first bucket of water of the new year.
The first day of Losar is for the immediate family with not many people venturing out of their homes. A beverage called Changkol made from Chhang (a beer like drink). It takes about seven days for the chhang to ferment. Changkol is usually the first dish that is eaten on the first day of Losar.
The second day is called "King's Losar" and is celebrated by visiting relatives and friends. Gatherings and parties are organised. At night people burn torches and whirl them in homes to ward off evil spirits.
On the third day Tibetans visit local monasteries, shrines and stupas. to offer prayers. Monks and nuns are then offered clothes and food. Flags are hoisted at all high points including rooftops and hills. Juniper incense and leaves are burnt as part of the worship.
Today, fireworks also accompany the celebration of this occasion which are telecast live on TV.
People wish each other Losar Tahsi Delek meaning good luck for the new year.
Though the exact origin of Losar is not known, according to available records, this festival dates back to the pre Buddist Bon period.
Losar is also called Bal Gyal Lo, where, Bal means Tibet, Gyal means King and Lo means year, because the first celebrations of this festival started with the enthronement of their first King.
The origin of this festival is attributed to an old woman named Belma who introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon.
Since the first festival was held during the flowering of the Apricot trees in autumn, it also became the farmers traditional first festival.
Significance Of Losar Festival
Losar festival is the biggest and the most important of all festivals of the Tibetans, a celebration by the masses with plenty of traditional food and chhang beer, spending time with family and friends and complete relaxation while welcoming the new year.
Dresil Recipe: Easy Tibetan Sweet Rice
Some Traditional Recipes Prepared On Losar
Here are some traditional recipes that are prepared on this occasion.
- Xiangshai (Tibetan potato curry) consumed on the evening of the first day of Losar.
- Droma (Rice and potato stew)
- Dresil ( Sweet saffron rice)
- Khapse fritters - new year cookie/pastry
- Guthuk (New year eve's soup with dumplings)
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© 2016 Rajan Singh Jolly