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Festivals in Tibet

In Tibet the Tibetan Calander lags approximately four to six weeks behind the solar Calendar  For example the Tibetan First Month usually falls in February, the Fifth Month June or early July and the Eight Month in September.

Month

Date

Festival

Notes

1st Month

1st-7th

New Year Festival Losar

A week long drama and carnivals, horses races  and archery

1st Month

4th-25th

Molam prayer festival

The Great Prayer Festival, a tradition begun by Tsongkapa. Many pilgrims gather at Jokhang in Lhasa 

1st Month

15th

Lantern Festival

Commemorates Buddhas s miracle at Sravasti. Fires are lit on roofs, and lamps in windows

2nd Month

28th-29th

-

Festival to drive out evil spirits  and expel the scapegoat. Lamas  encircle Lhasa with trumpets 

4th Month

7th

Pilgrim Festival

Important month for pilgrims. -the birth of Buddha Shakyamuni

4th Month

15th

Saka dawa

Celebrates the birth and Enlightenment of Sakyamuni and his entry to Nirvana. An outdoor opera is held and captured animals released. Worshippers flock to the Jokhang in Lhasa to pray.

5th Month

14th-16th

Hanging of the Thangka

A giant thangka is hung at Tashilungpo in Shigatse 

5th Month

15th

Incense Festival

On this day ghosts are said to prowl. Tibetans dress up and party to drive away the spirits.

5th Month

15th-24th

sho dun 

Literally, the "Yoghurt Festival." Worship of the Buddha. Picnics and operas are held in parks particularly under the trees at Norbulingka. There are often bonfires at night.

6th Month

4th

Buddha's sermon

A feast is held to commemorate Buddha's first sermon. Pilgrims climb holy mountains such as chokpori

6th month

6th

Cham-ngyon-wa, or "Old Dance"

Celebrated at the Cho-ne monastery representing the souls of the departed.

7th month

beginning

Washing Festival

Lasts about a week. People go to the river to wash themselves and their clothes. Said to cure any sickness.

7th Month

end

Ongkar Festival

Literally 'Looking around the fields'. Ensures a good harvest. Horse-racing, archery contests and opera

7th/8th Month

All

Golden star festival

The Golden Star festival is held to wash away passion, greed and jealousy and to abandon ego. Ritual bathing in rivers takes place and picnics are held

8th Month

1st-10th

Dajyur Festival

The Dayjur is held in Gyantse and Damshong-horse racing and light hearted sports competitions and games takes places

8th Month

1st-7th

harvest festival

The festival is held with prayers, dancing ,singing and drinking

9th Month

22nd

-

Buddha's descent from heaven after preaching to his mother is commemorated. All monasteries are opened and pilgrims gather

10th Month

25th

Tsongkhapa memorial

Memorial festival of Tsongkhapa's death - fires are lit on the roofs of the monasteries and lamps are lit

12th Month

1st-7th

New Year Festival

New Year Festival in Shigatse

12th Month

5th-6th

Meeting of the Eight Guardians

The Meeting of the Eight Guardians and demons where Tibetans stay indoors to avoid evil outside

12th Month

29th

Banishing Evil Spirits

A "Devil Dance" is held to drive out all evil from the Old Year to prepare for New Year.

 

Tibet has many holidays and festivals that relate to Buddhism. Many festivals have evolved and have gained great popularity among Tibetans, such as Tibet New Year, Great Prayer Festival, Butter Lantern Festival, Shoton Festival.  Since the Tibetans have their own moon calendar, the holidays do not take place on the same day each year. Visiting one of these festivals is one of our Tibet travel tips.

Losar (Tibetan New Year) Losar is the Tibetan word for "new year." Lo holds the semantic field "year, age"; sar holds the semantic field "new, fresh". Losar is the most important holiday in Tibet. Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five-day practice of Vajrakilaya.

 The new year begins on February 22 and will be celebrated over a period of 2 weeks.

The Tibetan New year, also known as Losar, is the most important festival in the Tibetan calendar. It is celebrated over a period of 2 weeks, generally during the months of December and January (see Tibetan new year Dates ). Take a China Highights Tibet Tour to experience the local pageantry of Tibet.

Losar festival is celebrated by Tibetan People. It is marked with ancient ceremonies that represents the struggle between good and evil, by chanting, and by passing fire torches through the crowds. A certain amount of levity is provided by events such as the dance of the deer and the amusing battles between the King and his various ministers. Losar Festival is characterized especially by dancing, music, and a general spirit of merrymaking.

During the last two days of the old year, which is called Gutor, people in Tibet begin to prepare for the New Year. The first day of Gutor is spent doing the house cleaning. The kitchen especially must be cleaned because it is where the family's food is prepared, and hence is the most important part of the house. The chimney is also swept free of dirt. Special dishes will be cooked. One such dish is a soup served with small dumplings. The soup is made from meat, wheat, rice, sweet potatoes, cheese, peas, green peppers, vermicelli and radishes. The fillings for dumplings include scraps of wood, paper or pebbles.

On the second day of Gutar, religious ceremonies are held. People go to visit the Local monastery to worship and give gifts to the monks. Tibetans also set off firecrackers to get rid of evil spirits which is lurking around.

On New Year's Day, Tibetans get up early, and put on new clothes after having taken a bath. They then worship the gods by placing offerings in the front of their household shrines. The offerings usually consist of animals and demons made from a kind of dough called torma. In addition, this day is for family members to exchange gifts. Families also have a reunion dinner, which usually consists of a kind of cake called Kapse and an alcoholic drink called chang, which is drunk to keep warm.

the story of Losar 

 

China Highlights' Tibetan new year Tour offers the tourist the unique opportunity of enjoying this annual festive occasion together with local Tibetan people.

The word of Losar is a Tibetan word which means New Year. The word is composed of two characters: LO and Sar. Lo means Year and Sar means New.?The celebration of Losar can be traced back to Tibetan pre-Buddhist period. At that time, Tibetans were followers of the Bon religion, and held a spiritual ceremony every winter. During the ceremonies, people burnt a large quantity of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and protectors. Later, this religious festival developed into an annual Buddhist festival, solar, in the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet.

The festival is also believed to have begun when an old woman called Belma introduced the measurement of time to Tibet based on the moon's phases. This festival was held in autumn, when the apricot trees blossomed. It may have been the first celebration of the traditional farmers' festival. It was during this period that the arts of cultivation of soil were first introduced to Tibet. Religious ceremonies started to celebrate these new capabilities, and these celebrations are believed to lead to the Losar festival.

MOLAM  CHENMO 

Monlam, also known as The Great Prayer Festival, falls on 4th -11th day of the 1st Tibetan month in Tibetan Buddhism. The event in Tibet was established in 1409 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Geluk tradition. As the greatest religious festival in Tibet, thousands of monks (of the three main monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Ganden) gathered for chanting prayers and performing religious rituals at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

The Great Prayer Festival is an unalloyed religious festival. It is a traditional Tibet festival with a history of about 600 years and could be dated back to 1409.

Brief Introduction of Great Prayer Festival

The Great Prayer Festival was established by Tsongkhapa (the founder of Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism) in honor of Sakyamuni. This festival was firstly celebrated in Lhasa in 1409. Hence, the celebration of the Great Prayer Festival would last from January 1st to January 25th according to the Tibetan calendar.

Great Prayer Festival is the greatest religious festival in Tibet. Lamas and followers of the Tibetan Buddhism from every corner of Tibet would collect in Jokhang Temple to worship Sakyamuni since they regard it as the living Buddha. Pilgrims would also offer donations to the lamas. Tourists planning a Tibet festival tour  during the Great Prayer Festival could explore the profound Buddhism culture and learn more about the devout Tibetans.

Celebration of Great Prayer Festival

Lamas from various regions of Tibet would collect in Jokhang Temple during the Great Prayer Festival. They would chant and debate the Buddhism scriptures in the temple. The debating scene looks pretty magnificent. The lamas would also raise questions to the elites of Tibetan Buddhism and debate with them. The devout followers of Tibetan Buddhism would also crowd the second floor of Jokhang Temple and throw their Hada to the chanting lamas.

The Butter Lamp Festival is on January 15th according to the Tibetan calendar. It would be the most boisterous night of the great prayer festival With the decoration of various colorful butter lamps, Barkhor Street became a miraculous and beautiful world. Those butter camps with various shapes and colors make Barkhor Street bright and splendid.

Local Tibetans would also hold a special ceremony on Lubu Square (located in the southwest of Jokhang Temple) to drive off the ghost and evils. On January 25th, the lamas in Jokhang Temple would carry out the statue of Maitreya and make a circumambulation along Barkhor Street. Then the Great Prayer Festival would conclude successfully.

Yoghurt Festival

The Sho Dun Festival, commonly known as the Yoghurt Festival or Banquet is an annual festival held at Norbulingka or "Jewel Park" palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The festival is celebrated in the summer, from the 15th to the 24th of the 5th lunar month - usually about the middle of August, after a month's retreat by the monks who stay within their monasteries to avoid walking on the emerging summer insects and killing them.

Tibetans kicked off the annual Shoton Festival, or Yogurt Festival, on Monday by worshipping Buddha, taking in traditional Tibetan operas, and enjoying picnics.

The opening ceremony attracted tens of thousands of people to the Drepung Monastery located in the western part of the region's capital city of Lhasa.

Tsering Donggar, dressed in Tibetan costume, offered hada, a piece of silk meant as a greeting gift, to the Buddha of the monastery with his wife.

"Every year the people of Lhasa gather someplace, either in Drepung Monastery or the Norbulingka Garden," said guide Tsering Dongkar.

Shoton Festival, which literally means "yogurt banquet festival," is one of the most important festivals for Tibetans. It dates back to the 11th century when it began as a religious occasion for local residents to offer yogurt to monks finishing mediation retreats.

Around the 17th century, it evolved into an occasion featuring Buddhist rituals, Tibetan opera performances and other forms of entertainment.

Like all Tibetan holidays, the exact date of the Shoton Festival is not fixed, though it almost always falls in August.

Gyatso set up two white-and-blue tents at 6 a.m., and tied colorful draperies to surrounding trees. He prepared to spend the seven-day festival in the tents with his family, watching Tibetan operas, playing cards, eating, drinking and sleeping on the grassland.

"Tibetan New Year and the Shoton Festival are the two most important festivals for us," Gyatso said.

Under a theme of "Happy Lhasa and Colorful Shoton," people can enjoy 18 activities in six categories. A beer festival and Tibetan opera performances were also held at the Norbulingka Garden.

The Golden Star Festival

The Golden Star Festival is a festival held in Tibet falling between the 7th and 8th month of the Tibetan Calendar (August-September). The Golden Star festival is held to wash away sins, particularly passion, greed and jealousy and to abandon ego. Ritual bathing in rivers takes place and picnics are held.

The Golden Star Festival is a festival held in Tibet  falling between the 7th and 8th month of the Tibet (August-September).

The Golden Star festival is held to wash away sins, particularly passion, greed and jealousy and to abandon ego. Ritual bathing in rivers takes place and picnics are held.

Damshong Horse Festival

Dajyur or the Damshong Horse Festival is a Tibetan festival that takes place at the beginning of the eighth month of the lunar calendar (solar September) throughout southern Tibet. The festivities last for ten days with events such as horse racing, bicycle riding contests, and rock-carrying competitions contributing to a time of merriment and celebration.

The Damxung Horse Festival was originally created to celebrate the harvest. It was also a chance for Tibetans, as well as Mongols, to exchange the agriculture and animal husbandry products. Later, Tibetans added more entertainment and some recreational activities into the celebration of Damgxung Horse Racing  Festival.

Tibet Festival Dates: Damgxung Horse Racing Festival would be held between July 10th and July 12th according to the Tibetan calendar.

In the first three days of Damgxung Horse Racing Festival, the herdsman would dress on their best costumes, especially the girls and boys. They would collect here and chase for their lovers with singing and dancing. All Tibetans would immerse themselves in the festal atmosphere. According to the rule of Sera Monastery, all the entertainment activities would be prohibited after the first three days. Politics activities and business exchanges would be held in the following days of the month.

July and August (according to Tibetan calendar) is the harvest season of agriculture and animal husbandry products. Tibetans would do some exchanges during the Damgxung Horse Racing Festival. This exchanging festival also attracts a large number of business men from other regions of Tibet. Thousands of people would enroll in the exchange meeting everyday.

The Butter Lamp Festival 

The Butter Lamp Festival, Chunga Choepa in Tibetan, falls on 15th day of the 1st Tibetan month. The event was also established by Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. Various giant butter and Tsampa sculptures, in forms of auspicious symbols and figures, are displayed on Barkhor. People keep singing and dancing throughout the festive night.

(15th day of the 1st lunar month in Tibetan Calendar)

It is the last day of the Great Prayer Festival The event was also established in 1409 by Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. In his dream, all beautiful flowers and trees appeared in front of Buddha. He commissioned monks to make flowers and trees with colored butter. This tradition has been maintained to this day. Various giant butter and butter sculptures, in forms of auspicious symbols and figures, are displayed on Barkhor Street, such as flowers, birds, and animals, Large scale butter sculptures about stories of Buddha, Princess Wencheng, Han story of `Monkey' and also Scaffoldings several stories high will be erected at many monasteries and thousands of lamps will be hung on them. The lantern show is held on the evening and last all night until dawn. The preparation takes a good part of four months. People keep singing and dancing in great joy throughout the festive nigh. 

 This delicious-sounding festival involves lighting butter lamps (lamps made of butter) and displaying butter sculptures in order to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s great debating victory over his opponents about 2,500 years ago in India. He bested them in a great debate. The festival falls in the first month of the Tibetan calendar on the 15th day, and it is traditionally considered to be a part of the Monlam Prayer Festival week before it. The Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival is the last and greatest day of the Monlam Festival that commemorates Buddha’s miracles. In the Western calendar, the festival is on March 8 in the year 2012, but it falls on a different day in the Western calendar every year.  During the day, people go to temples, and there are displays of sculptures made of colored butter of Buddhas or animals, flowers and birds. The sculptures are psychedelic. Then at night, thousands of butter lamps represent the light of Buddhism. The day commemorates Buddha’s victory and wisdom, and it is an interesting sight especially on Barkhor Street in Lhasa  that is Tibet’s capital city.

The Butter Lamp Festival falls on the night of the full moon. It is the greatest day of the Tibetan new year holiday season that starts with the New Year Losar Festival on the first day of the month, continues with the Monlam Festival period, and ends with the Butter Lamp Festival. The colorful and intricately designed butter sculptures are called “Tormas.” Making these Tormas has been a tradition for hundreds of years. Now, some of the large butter sculptures tell the story of Buddha and his oral victory. Various characters in the old story are represented to instruct people on the history. Barkhor Street and its square are turned into a grand exhibition site for Tormas sculpted from butter. It is a fantastic night. Some of the sculptures are lit and with the thousands of burning lights, they make a meditative or mesmerizing scene.

Butter lamps are simply clarified yak butter or vegetable oil in a bowl with a wick. The lamps produce a smokey light. In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, a lot of lights together are conducive for meditation and focusing the mind. According to the Root Tantra of Chakrasamvara, "If you wish for sublime realization, offer hundreds of lights.” So on special holidays, people and monks at the temples light thousands of lamps. They put them on scaffolds that may be several stories high. Tibetans also supply butter and vegetable oil to the monestaries to gain merit. The lights banish darkness. Just as the butter or vegetable oil turns into light, it is believed that human minds can be enlightened.

Along with seeing the butter sculptures and the lights, people dance and sing in the streets. It is a festive time, and it is said to be their merriest celebration. It is sort of like a Western New Year celebration. The lights burn all night in the cold night air until the morning. For Tibetans, it is the culmination of their winter festival and New Year festival, and the climax of months of preparatory work.

History

In 1409, Tsong Khapa lit a lot of lights to commemorate Shakyamuni’s victory in a debate in Sravasti in India. In Indian culture, debates have had greater significance than in most other cultures. Victory in important verbal debates have changed India’s history many times. In former times, over ten thousand monks from Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries gathered at Jokhang temple for the festival. Nowadays, there are far fewer monks in attendance.

In times past, the Monlam Festival in Lhasa was very important for Tibetan monks. The Dalai Lamas would go to the Jokhang Temple and preside over a question and answer test for the highest-ranking monk. This event is now carried out in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives. Now, it is a festivity is for making merry and worship.

 

Shoton Festival 

Shoton Festival (also Yoghurt Festival) begins on the 30th of the 6th Tibetan month. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century. When monks stopped their summer retreat which was intended not to kill newly hatched insects, pilgrims came to serve them with yogurt. Later Tibetan opera performances were added to the event to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas of the Buddha is unveiled in Drepung Monastery and Tibetan opera troupes perform operas at Norbulingka.

 

Shoton festival is one of the most important festivals in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan life. It is also one of long history festivals, which is hold in June, commonly.

In Tibetan language, "Sho" means Yoghurt, while "ton" means feast. So the Shoton Festival can be explained as the festival to have yoghurt base on Tibetan language. Later, as for the main activity in Shoton Festival is Tibetan Opera show, so people also named it "Tibetan Opera Festival". This festival not only celebrated in Lhasa, but also in Shigatse, but the time in Shigatse is later and named it as "Semuqinbo".

Shoton Festival – Brief Introduction

The prologue of traditional Shoton Festival is Buddha exhibition; and the main activities are playing and watching Tibetan Opera and visiting garden, as well as wonderful yak competition and horse-back action performance. The center of festival activity is in Norbu Lingka, west of Lhasa where is the summer garden of Dalai Lama who is the head of religion and politic in Tibet. When the festival comes, there will appear a colorful tent city in the woods around Norbu Lingka in a night, and several bustling festival streets. Almost the whole Lhasa city was moved into this green world, all the people live in outside, the songs spread in trees shadows with unique musical instruments in plateau. It is the most active festival of Lhasa people.

Shoton Festival – Origin

Shoton Festival originated in middle of 11th century when Shoton Festival is a purity religious festival. It is said that there are three hundreds commandment in Buddhism, and the strictest one is killing life. As warmer in summer, plants grow and animals wake, all the things refreshed, it is inevitable that monks may kill life when they go out which break the commandment. So the commandment of Gulug set that Lama must stay in monastery to practice during April and June which is named "Yale" means "settle down in summer". Until the day to release the taboo, Lama will go out monastery and go down the mountain. In order to reward the Lama, folks prepare yoghurt, hold outdoor feast and play Tibetan Opera in the welcome ceremony for them. That's the origin of Shoton Festival.

Shoton Festival – Activities

Buddha Exhibition

As the prologue of the festival, Buddha exhibition on Drepung is the most outstanding ceremony. In 8 o'clock in the morning, a giant Saykamuni statue which is 500 square meters and made up of colorful silk slowly show its peaceful appearance on the mountain waist behind Drepung, with the first thread of sunshine fall down, in the dignified and solemn Buddhism trumpet sound. Ten thousands believers and moved visitor with the two hands together to worship it.

Tibetan Opera

Tibetan Opera show is another important content of the festival. From the second day of Shoton Festival, in Longwangtan Garden which is on the opposite of Norbu Lingka and Potala Palace, the Tibetan Opera troops will play from 11 o'clock in the morning to the sun falling down. It is said that they only play the most important part for the time limited, or a play can be showed in several days. Both the actors and the audiences are enjoying the process.

Shoton Festival – Meaning

In the 200 years, there appeared the scene of Drepung Shoton, Potala Palace Shoton and Norbu Lingka Shoton present together, and Norbu Lingka is the center. Shoton Festival is important festival of Tibetan, the specific form of Tibetan culture. To keep this festival is meaningful to keep the unique features of Tibetan culture, strengthen nationality unity and maintain the diversity of world culture.

With history development, today's Shoton Festival is an event which gathered traditional Buddha exhibition, literature and art joint performance, sports competition, attracting investment, economic and commercial talks, goods exhibition and sale, tourism and entertainment together and combined the tradition and modern.

SAGA DAWA FESTIVAL

On the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month is Saka Dawa Festival. The day is believed to be the day when Sakyamuni was born, step into Buddhahood and attained nirvana. Tibetans believe that one merit equals myriads of merits accumulated the other days. People keep from killing animals, refrain from eating meats and liberate animals. Sutra chanting, prayer turning, Cham dancing and other religious activities dominate the session. 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 festive mood.

There are two statements about the origin of Saga Dawa Festival: some people hold that it was celebrated in honor of Sakyamuni while the others hold that it was celebrated in honor of Princess Wencheng of Chinese Tang Dynasty. Saga Dawa Festival is one of the few noted religious festivals on Tibet festival calendar. Various religious activities would be held in every corner of Tibet for the celebration of the festival.

Tibet Festival Calendar - Characteristics of Saga Dawa Festival

Alms-giving is the main characteristic of Saga Dawa Festival, which is said to be one of the most special festivals on Tibet festival saga. On this day, tourists could see numerous devout followers of Tibetan Buddhism showing their loyalty to their belief. Some of the religious followers come to Lhasa for pilgrimage from thousand miles away. Hence, some of tourists who've been to Lhasa said that they were always touched by the devout Tibetan people.

Saga Dawa Festival would be celebrated on April 15th according to Tibetan calendar. It is a festival for doing good things. Hence, it is really the best festival on the Tibet festival calendar for the needy people since they might get a lot of alms-giving on this day. Hence, Saga Dawa Festival is also called Poor's Festival. People would be glad to donate little money to the "beggars" on this day. Generally, most of the Tibetans would abstain from eating meat on April 8th and 15th according to Tibetan calendar.

Tibet Festival Calendar – Traditions of Saga Dawa Festival

Circumambulation has been an ancient tradition of Saga Dawa Festival. There are three circumambulation routes in Lhasa. The first one is the Langkhor route in Jokhang Temple with a perimeter of 500 meters. The second route is Barkhor Street with a perimeter of 1000 meters. The third route is the Linkhor Street, which surrounds the old Lhasa city with a perimeter of 5000 meters. There are numerous followers of Tibetan Buddhism circumambulating on Langkhor Route and Barkhor Street every day. Tibetans would choose to circumambulate on Linkhor Street on the special and solemn Saga dawa festival.

There is another tradition on Saga Dawa – the beggars from various regions of Tibet would collect at South Deji Road in Lhasa for begging. Alms-giving on Saga Dawa has become a tradition for the Tibetans in Lhasa. Tourists planning to travel to Tibet during Saga Dawa Festival would have the chance to take part in the alms-giving and experience the different festival atmosphere. Tourists would also find that Tibetan Buddhism really influenced every aspect of the daily life of local Tibetans

Bathing Festival

Bathing Festival starts on 27th of the 7th lunar month and lasts a week, when Venus appears in the sky. Tibetans brings food and set up tents along rivers and bathe themselves in star light. The holy bath is considered to be able to heal all diseases and get rid of misfortune.

Bathing Festival

The Bathing Festival usually falls on the first ten days of July according to Tibetan calendar. Lasting a week, it is also known as the Bathing Week. In Tibetan it is called "Gamariji," meaning Qishan star, or Venus. As the star rises to the sky, the mass bathing starts. As the star sets, the bathing ends. Legend goes that bathing at this period is beneficial to health. According to Tibetan Buddhism, the water in Tibet at this timehas eight advantages: sweet, cool, soft, light, clear, clean, unharmful to throat, nor to belly. Judged from the natural environment and climate of Tibet, the river water has a relatively high temperature and is suitable for bathing. During the seven days, tens of thousands of Tibetan men and women go to river or lake to have baths. The tents, big or small, dot the beach and Lingka into a colourful world.

Nakchu Horse Race Festival 

Nakchu Horse Race Festival is a most important folk festival in Tibet. People gather in Nakchu town and 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 on the early august annually.

Nakchu Horse Racing Festival

Every summer (July/August), the city of Nakchu comes alive to the sounds of horses hoofs galloping and the yells and hoots of the horsemen and the crowds. The annual Nakchu Horse Racing Festival is underway!

Nakchu, an important trading city, is situated on the Lhasa-Ziling highway. Lying in the midst of the rugged mountains, this city is home to the hardy Tibetan nomads or drokpas, and has been for centuries. It is a vast pastoral area bordered by rugged mountain terrain. Nakchu is popular throughout Tibet for its annual Horse Racing Festival. The Tibetan highlanders are adept horsemen, and in the month of July most of them weave their way to Nakchu to take part in the race. The city bears a festive look with the scores of appliquéd tents that are pitched up, bordering the Nakchu race course. This race course, at 4500 m(14763 ft), is undoubtedly the highest race course in the world. The Tibetans throng the racecourse looking grand in their traditional finery. The town has few hotels as most of the participants, mostly Tibetan nomads prefer to camp in their own tents, which are quite large and roomy and colorful too.

During the festival, shows of horsemanship skills, including archery on horseback and racing, are the main attractions. There will also be much revelry and merry making among the participants and the crowds. Tibetans rarely let an occasion pass without singing and dancing.

Over here the weather conditions are harsh and the facilities for visitors are quite basic. However the Horse racing Festival presents a great opportunity for both Tibetans as well as the visitors to participate in an age old festival.

Horse Race Festival

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

Horse Racing Festival

Horse Racing Fair is a unique festival in grazing area of Tibet. It is usually held between June and July in Tibetan calendar, when the pasture is lush and horses and cows are stout and strong. The horse racing is seen every year, but a large one is held every two or three years. It will last several days, with the longest ones over ten days. The most famous ones of them are the Kyagqen Horse Racing Art Festival of Nagqu and Darma Festival of Gyangze.

As the horse racing starts, herdsmen will come from a long way by horse or yak, wearing colourful clothes for festivals, and all kinds of jewels and ornaments. The horse racing field will instantly be surrounded by tents.

The event includes horse racing and horsemanship. The horse racing intends to test the controlling ability of the horseman and the viability, exploding force and stability of the horse. There are long-distance and short-distance horse racing, covering thousands or hundreds of metres. The horsemanship match has such contents as shooting arrows, target practice, chopping, picking up hada and offering highland barley wine on the horse. The atmosphere is comfortable and the event is more a performance than competition. There are no detailed rules for the match. In addition, such programmes as two-man tug-of-war and carrying huge stones are also performed. As night falls, people make a campfire and sing and dance around it.

After the democratic reform was carried out in 1959, especially in recent 20 years or so, the horse racing has been endowed new meanings. The scale becomes larger, the forms diversified and contents more colourful. While preserving the traditional programmes and new ones such as folk dance, art performance, fashion show and folk costume display, people also start inviting bid for business and trade, commodity exchange, science popularization, law publicity and medical care. The horse racing festival has become a grand ceremony to boost economy and accelerate economic development.

Buddha Unfolding Festival 

Buddha Unfolding Festival is celebrated in Tashilhunpo Monastery from 14th to 16th of the 5th Tibetan month. Unbelievable giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya will be displayed on the monastery's Thangka Wall successively. Thousands of pilgrims rush to the monastery to pay their offerings to the Buddhas and accumulate their merits. The tradition has lasted for 500 years.

Holy Mountain Festival 

Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival, Choekhor Duechcen in Tibetan, falling on 4th of the 6th Tibetan month, is to commemorate Sakyamuni's first sermon. People, in their best conduct during the session, go to monasteries to pay homage to the Buddha. Circumambulation around mountains is the popular practice in the festival. Picnicking, singing and dancing are also part of the activities.

Universal Prayers Festival 

Universal Prayers Festival, Zamling Chisang in Tibetan, falls on 15th of the 5th Tibetan month. The event is to commemorate Padmasambhava's Subjugation of evil spirits. People go to monasteries and burn juniper branches.

Harvest Festival ?Harvest Festival, Ongkor in Tibetan, is celebrated when crops ripen, usually around August. The festival is celebrated only in farming villages. People walk around field to bless for a harvest year. Singing, dancing, and horseracing are indispensable folk activities.

 

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