Tibet Travel Tips

Tibet Festivals

Festivals in January

Festivals in January

The Great Prayer Festival (mon-lam)

This is the greatest religious festival in Tibet. Originated from Tsongkpa in 1409, the founder of the Gelukpa sect. Monks from the Three Great Monastery of Tibet assemble in Jokhang for prayer to Shakyamuni’s image as if it were the living Buddha.According to the legend, in the first month of the year, Buddha conquered or converted six holy men of false religions at the joint place between Tibet and India.In the beginning, the monks from the Three Great Monastery of Tibet(Sera Monastery, Dreprung Monastery, Ganden Monastery)assembled before the statue of Shakyamuni reciting scriptures and praying for best wishes. The Prayer Festival became more and more ceremonious as time passed by. And every time the Dalai Lama was dying, the worship accumulated and the praying time lasted longer and longer. From the fiesta of DalaiV, the Great Prayer Festival was finally fixed to begin from the fourth day of the first Tibetan lunar month to the 24th(a day to pray to drive ghosts away)and 25th(a day to invite and welcome Amitabha Buddha) and it will be held on March, 8th, 2011. During the festival, lamas from the three largest monasteries gather in the Jokhang, reciting scriptures and attending an examination for the Gexi degree. Pilgrims come from every corner of Tibet and donations are offered to the monks.
The 15th day of the first month by the lunar year is the day when Buddha conquered or converted six holy men of false religions. On the day the Living Buddhas and monks from the Three Great Monastery of Tibet will hold a grand religious ceremonies, reciting scriptures and praying for best wishes, making the Great Prayer Festival reach the climaxes .By nightfall colorful butter-made sculptures of figures, flowers, birds, and animals are displayed on the flower beds. The tallest flowerbeds is 10 meters high while the lowest is 6 meters high. Among the sculptures some are towering , magnificent, and greatly surprising, some are beautifully wrought and charming, some are be high up in the air like birds to fly, some are repeatedly joint like a stereopaiting. All these with the flashing of thousands of butter lamps make the street dazzlingly brilliant showing the people’s love for peace. The citizens rush down the street to appreciate the lamp offerings, the farmers circle around the lamp offerings to dance and sing throughout the night.

The Large Dharma Transmission Ceremony

The Large Dharma Transmission Ceremony is also called “Monlam Chenmo’ “in Tibetan.From 4th-15th day of the 1st lunar month, the festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Buddha Sakyamuni.
Butter Lamp Festival
The Butter Lamp Festival is celebrated oLn the 15th day of the first month every year by the Tibetan in Qinghai and Gansu provinces and it will be held on December, 19th 2011. It ‘s the last day of the Great Prayer Festival. To honor the victory of Sakyamuni in a debate against Heretics,people assemble at the Barkhor Street in Lhasa, worshiping the Buddha in the daytime and by nightfall. People usually light thousands of lamps filled with butter in an intriguing assortment of designs including immortals, animals, flying birds, beasts, and flowers.. The whole festive will last all night. People sing and dance in great joy throughout the night.

Lunar February / Exorcism Festival

On the seventh of the second month, those who dress up like ghosts will be driven to the other side of the Darxia River, and can’t return within seven days.
Buddha Exposing Festival
On the eighth of the second month, the Monasteries will conduct scripture chanting, show the giant Buddha and all kinds of treasures.
During later February, another dharma ceremony comes off, which is named “Congjue” in Tibetan. The activities are similar to those of the Large Dharma Transmission Ceremony. The only difference is that “Congjue” ceremony is smaller than the other. Therefore, it is referred as the Small Dharma Transmission Ceremony.

Lunar March

Reincarnation and transmigration of Buddha’s Warrior Attendant
It is a festival on the fifth of the third month to memory the first day for the rotation of Tibetan calendar.( Fire Rabbit Year—— AD 1027)

Lunar April

Saga Dawa Festival–the Birth of the Buddha
Held by the Dragon King Pond, it was celebrated on the 15th of the fourth month for the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni’s birth, enlightenment, death and Songtsan Gambo’s wedding with Princess Wencheng sent by Tang Dynasty (618-907). The people including monks and laymen, men and women in Lhapulun don’t eat or drink or speak for a day and two nights, it is called”Niannai”festival.
Sunning of the Buddha Festival
The occasion is held yearly on 8th in the fourth month by the Tibetan lunar calendar in Kangding prefecture, Garze autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province. All the activities on the Festival constitute the large-scale activity of Zhuanshan (circumambulation) offerring sacrifice to gods and Buddha and praying for blessings.

Lunar May

The San Marinese Festival
According to legend, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar, people will go up the mountains to collect medicines because it is on the day that the San Marinese will scatter holy water and medicine.

Lotus Buddha’s Birthday

The tenth of the fifth month is the birthday of Lotus Buddha . Many places such as Xiezha of Shannan and Khaqu of Luozha will celebrate the day. Every year there will be a petty celebration and every twelve years there will be a big celebration.

Lunar June

Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival
A day of sermon for Shakyamuni ,Buddhist followers wear new cassocks to worship Buddha on mountains on the fourth of the sixth month in Tibetan calendar, in Lhasa area.

The Shoton Festival in Lhasa

It’s one of the Tibetan traditional festivals. In Tibetan, “sho” means “Yoghurt” and “ton” means “banquet”. So Shoton Festival is also called the ‘Yoghurt Festival’. Subsequently, as the activities of Shoton Festival gradually changed into an activity with Tibetan opera as a major part, so people also called it the Tibet Opera Festival. Prior to the 17th century, Shoton had been an exclusively religious observance. The month of June on the Tibetan calendar was reserved for self-cultivation and meditation for all the monks who were not allowed to go out of monasteries until July 1, when local residents would offer alms of yogurt (Sho, in Tibetan), that’s how The Shoton Festival came into being. From around the mid-17th century, Tibetan local operas were added to festival celebrations. In the beginning of the 18th century, Norbu Lingka was built and acted as the summer palace of Dalai. Then the main site of the festival was moved to Norbu Lingka and celebrations became formalized. Accordingly, the fixed Shoton Festival was established. In the old Tibet, the activities of the Shoton Festival went like this: on the 29th of the sixth month, troupes all through Tibet would go to the Potala Palace and registered in the local government. Curt performances was given at the ceremony and then they would worship Dalai at Norbu Lingka, and returned to Dreprung Monastery in the evening. On the 30th , Zang opera would be performed all day at Dreprung Monastery.
On the 1st of July, all the troupes would give performances together at Norbu Lingka. From 2nd to 5th of July, troupes from Gyantse , An’ rang、Nanmulin and Lhasa performed one day in turn. During the festival, the Gesa government took a holiday. All the officials woull assemble at Norbu Lingka and enjoyed the performances with Dalai. At noon, a banquet was given to treat all the officials, and Yoghurt was served. The residents in Lhasa and peasants from suburb would dress up ,take along food and drinks and go to Norbu Lingks for the performances.

The Colorful Lingka Festival

The Tibetans are a people whose love of nature has given rise to a special national custom, the Lingka Festival. The fifth month by the Tibetan calendar is the best season for Lingka, so people leave their houses and put up tents in the thick forest in Lingka, and happily enjoy the charity of nature.
It is said that this festival is remembered because in the May of Monkey year, Lotus Buddha subdued all the evils and monsters in Tibet. There is another legend about this festival. Trisong Detsan intended to build Samye Monastery ,but he came across a bad moment and failed many times. Fortunately Lotus Buddha came to help found Incense Burning and Praying Festival large-scale burnt incense in the Monasteries and prayed for peace and happiness.The adverse circumstance disappeared gradually and the monastery became a success. In order to memory this custom, a great ceremony was held when the new crescent moon comes to be full(the 15th day).It is a lucky day. Meanwhile it reaches the climaxes for the Tibetans dressing their best clothes rush to Linka camping and clinic, enjoying cooking tea with butter, barley wine and much other good food. People in Qiang national minority prefecture of Alba, Sichan, by unit of family, clan or village, set up tents in the open air on 4th of May. Every family a tent with simple decorations, cook brick tea, enjoy yoghurt. They sing, dance, tell stories, play games and drink day and night.

Lunar July

Bathing Festival In Tibet
Bathing Festival starts from 6th to 12th of the seventh Tibetan month. It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and can cure all diseases and get rid of misfortune. During the festival, Tibetan people will bring food and set up tents along rivers to take bathe in star light.

Lunar August

The Onkor Festival (Harvest Festival)
It is an occasion that Tibetans celebrate their harvest. “On” indicates “field” in Tibetan, “Kor” with the meaning of “twining round”, and “Onkor” means “twining round the highland barley”. The festival is popular in the rural areas of Shannan、Lhasa、Shigatse.In general, Onkor is celebrated at the end of the seventh month on lunar calendar just before peasants begin to reap their crops. It is said that the Onkor Festival has enjoyed a history of more than1500 years, and first became popular in the valley area of the middle and lower reaches of Yalu Tsangpo River. In order to ensure the plenteous harvest, the Tibet King sbu-de-gung-rgyal asked the hierarch of Bon religion for guidance. Following the tenets of Bon religion, the hierarch of Bon religion taught the peasants to walk around their field, beseeching the Heaven for a plenteous harvest, which is the origin of the Onkor. During the late years of the 8th century, Tibet came to the Silver Age of Tibet Buddhism when the representative sect was the Nyingmapa sect, and the Onkor activity therefore was tinged with the features of the Nyingmapa sect. In front of the procession people will hold the futures of Buddhism and recite lection. After that ,Onkor became the formal Tibetan traditional Festival. With the evolution of the time, the contents and forms of the Onkor changed continuously, including horse riding ,arrow shooting ,Zang opera etc. Now to celebrate the festival, people , old and young , will dress up, lifting ” harvest tower” made of highland barley and beating drums and gongs, singing in their odes and walk around the fields in prayers for a bumper harvest, and then followed by a horse race, arrow shooting, Zang opera and dances, together with an outdoor banquet.

Lunar September

At this month,According to Our Tibetan Lunar Clander we don’t have any special Festival

Lunar October

Heavenly Maid Festival also called Goddess Festival
known as “the Celestial Mother Festival” or “Belha Rabzhol” in Tibetan. Each year, on the 15th of the tenth month in Tibetan calendar, religious activities are held in temples throughout Tibet,especially for Tibetan women to pray for happy marriage and true love.

Lunar November

Grant God Festival
On the 29th of the ninth month in Tibetan calendar, Buddhists go to worship Buddha, all are charitable and chant sutras.

Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival

It is held on the 25th day of the 12th month, which is in November or December in Gregorian calendar. It is the day on which Tsongkapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect met his demise. Every house and every monastery hold light lamps on the roofs of their houses and windowsills chanting prayers in memory of Tsongkapa in the night.

Lunar December

Ghost-Exorcising Festival
“Kuto” in Tibetan, falls on the 29th of the 12th Tibetan month. During this festival, to drive away evil spirits and to welcome the New Year, large -scale sorcerers’ dances take place at monasteries and in every household, people do cleaning, and decorate their houses.

Tibetan New Year (Losar)

The Tibetan New year, known as Losar, is the most important local festival which is celebrated for 2 weeks during the month of December and January as per the lunar calendar.
Losar festival commemorates the arrival of new year, celebrated by people who live in Ladakhi or Tibet. The festival is marked with ancient ceremonies,the performance fights between good & evil, chanting and passing the fire torches through the crowds. The dance of the deer and the exciting battles between the King and his ministers make the festival more joyful. This festival is full of dancing, music and merry-making.