Losar festival is celebrated to commemorate the advent of the New Year. It is the Ladakhi or Tibetan New Year. Considered as the most important of all Buddhist festivals, Losar is celebrated across two weeks during the month of January or February according to the Gregorian calendar. The festival is marked with ancient rituals, stage fights between good and evil, chanting and passing through the crowds with fire torches. The dance of the Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King & his ministers add to the joyous atmosphere. This festival is full of music, dancing and merry-making. For all Buddhists, Losar is a sacred time and a time for feasting and celebrations. It is a time to be with the family and a time to ensure that bad omens are not carried into the New Year.
Homes are painted, new clothes are stitched, debts and quarrels are resolved, good food is cooked and intoxicants are drunk in the run-up to New Year's Day. Homes are decorated with flour paintings of the sun and moon, and small lamps are illuminated in the houses at night. The first few days of festivities are exclusively family affairs, as are the first days of the New Year. Later, the festivities roll out onto the streets. Tab-zan, a special bread, features in the family meals. In Sikkim, on the fifth day of Losar a special broth (made from boiled barley grains, peas and the stomach of a sheep) is prepared. Dib rug, a dish made by stuffing sheep intestines with barley dough kneaded in sheep blood, is another specialty during this festival.
In the night, the swishing sound of burning torches can be heard around a Buddhist home, as men folk whirl flaming torches over their heads in an effort to ward off evil spirits, sickness, dog bites and other misfortunes from striking their family in the New Year. The Buddhist families take special care to ensure that positive things take place all the time. Hence, the ceremonies are umpteen. In Sikkim, a male and female goat are sacrificed after a purification ceremony, wherein the animals are washed, their ears are stitched with ribbon, their bodies are smeared red and they are made to drink the local brew, chang.
In another ceremony named Mesol, the family visits the resting places of their ancestors, light a lamp, and offer food and drinks. The family then eats the food, which is considered blessed. In some homes, the men run through the houses firing guns or crackers. Costume dramas are performed. Archery contests and horse races are held. And everywhere, chang flows. On the morning of the New Year, families rise before dawn, bathe, put on new clothes and fine jewelry. Offerings of barley flour mixed with butter and sugar and yogurt are then made at the family shrine. This represents the hope for a good grain harvest. After a visit to local monasteries, the family settles down to feasting and drinking.