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Cultural & Festival Tours in Tibet

Febuary- March

Tibetan New Year
On the first day of the Tibetan New Year (which falls in February or March), the entire populace greet one another with the words ‘tashi delek’ (good luck and happiness) and ‘losar sang’ (happy New Year). Children set off fire crackers and everyone drinks ‘chang’ (barley beer) and butter tea. Both in the town and countryside Tibetan opera, round dances and tap dances are performed, while in pastoral areas nomads sing and dance around blazing bonfires throughout the night.

Monlam Chenmo (Great prayer)
It is the greatest religious event of the year started by Tsongkhapa in 1409 to celebrate the miracles performed by Buddha at Sravasti in India. Large number of monks comes together in Labrang and Rongwo Gon Chen monasteries in Amdo and also in Jokhang in Lhasa. Sutra debating competition is held in Jokhang, parading ceremony of the statue of the future Buddha in the Barkhor Street.

Butter Lamp Festival
This festival is celebrated to honour the memory of Shakyamuni.During the day people visit Monasteries to pay their homage. Monks and local artists make Pyramids displaying various shaped and coloured flowers, animals, birds, beasts with butter. In the evening butter lamps are lit and scriptures of figures, flowers, birds and animals are displayed along Barkhor Street. People sing and dance and enjoy throughout the night.

May – June

Saga Dawa Festival
This day is celebrated as the day of Buddha’s birth, ordination and nirvana. Thousands of pilgrims crowd to do the sacred circuit (Linkhor) around Jokhang and old Lhasa. During this period of time, Tibetans walk along three pilgrimage paths to commemorate the merits of Buddha Sakyamuni.

June - July

Dzamling Chipsang/Universal incense offering
Commemoration of Guru Rinpoche subduing the obstructive deities and spirits in Tibet and converting them into protectors of Buddhism in preparation for the founding of Samye, the very first Buddhist Monastery in Tibet. Tibetans burn incenses and offer it to these deities all over Tibet.

Horse Racing Festival Gyantse
Horse racing and arrow shooting are very popular amongst Tibetans. Horse racing as a sport started in Tibet in1408. Besides this cultural shows, track and field activities, folk songs and dances are held as a part of the festival.

Yarlong Cultural Festival
This week long festival organised by the government of Shannan prefecture since 1992 aims at promoting local tourism and to introduce the Tibetan culture to the outside world. The highlights of the festival are traditional song and dance performances, dress shows, trade talks etc.

August – September

Shoton Festival (in Lhasa)
In August, when summer is at its height, the annual opera performances of Shoton (Yogurt Banquet) take place in Norbu Lingka (the Summer Place) in Lhasa, and people also go to Drepung Monastery to get the blessing of the large-sized Thangka displayed there.

Holy mountain festival
Believed to be the day when Shakyamuni Buddha preached his first sermon. All Tibetans visit monasteries to pay their homage to Shakyamuni Buddha, burn incense sticks. Circumambulation around holy mountains is a popular practice.

September - October

The Bathing festival
Also called Gamariji meaning Venus as the mass bathing starts with the rising of the star as it is believed that water becomes purified. Celebrated at the start of autumn and ending of summer this festival is celebrated for seven days. During this festival Tibetans of all age young and old, men and women take dip into water as they believe it will wash away all their diseases.

Ongkor / Harvest Festival
Celebrated when crops are ripe and it lasts for three to five days. People dress up hold colourful flags with good wishes and carry a harvest tower made of barley stalks and ears. They sing and dance and beat drums and gongs and walk around the fields after which begins the intense autumn harvest.

Chugbacexi Festival This day is supposed to be the first day Buddha preached. During this festival people are in their best conduct. They worship and recite scriptures in the monasteries and on the mountains near Lhasa and sing and dance till dawn.