Losar is the most significant festival of the Tibetan Buddhists, as it marks the Tibetan New Year. The word Losar is a compound form of two Tibetan words, ‘lo’ denoting ‘year’ and ‘sar’ signifying ‘new’. The festival is celebrated to turn away any negativity and evil spirits and welcome the arrival of happiness and success in the New Year. This festival is observed with great opulence and magnificence by the Buddhists in Tibet and in other countries like India, Bhutan and Nepal. Preparations for the occasion commence well in advance to greet the coming year with open arms. Furthermore, there are various rituals and customs followed while celebrating the Losar festival. Browse on further to know all about Tibetan New Year traditions.
Rituals Of Tibetan New Year
A month before the festival arrives, people get engrossed in cleaning their home thoroughly removing every bit of dirt and whitewashing them new. The most attractive and finest decorations are put all across the house and elaborate offerings are made known as ‘Lama Losar’. The older prayer flags are replaced with fresh colorful ones. New clothes are made for every member of the family. Eight different auspicious symbols are sketched on the walls with white powder representing the different offerings made by the Gods to the Buddha, after his enlightenment.
These symbols are the parasol (royal dignity and protection from the heat of the sun), two golden fish (good fortune), the conch shell (sound of the Dharma reaching far and wide), the lotus blossom (true nature of beings who rise through samsara into the beauty and clarity of enlightenment), the banner of victory (Buddha’s victory over the demon Mara - passion, fear of death, pride and lust), the vase (long life and prosperity), Dharma Wheel (one of the most popular Buddhism symbols representing the Eightfold Path) and the eternal knot (cause and effect and the union of compassion and wisdom).
On the New Year’s Eve, the traditional special noodle soup called guthuk is prepared. It includes dumplings that contain nine different fortune symbols, such as chili pepper, cotton ball, wood, charcoal, sugar cube, wool string, paper, pebble and raw bean. Each symbol obtained by the person represents his fortune in the coming year. For example, if a person finds chili pepper in his dumpling, it signifies that he is talkative. Similarly, wool denotes good-heartedness and charcoal denotes meanness. White items like sugar and cotton are considered to be a good sign.
At the dawn of the first day, the members of the family rise early and dress in their finest and new clothes. Housewives cook a pot of barley wine and wait for the sunrise. At the break of the day, the leading woman of the house carries a bucket to the nearby river to fetch the year’s first bucket of water. The family members greet one another and drink the barley wine. They take Tube oatmeal and dromar fried in butter for refreshments. All these dishes are prepared one day in advance. On the second day, people move out to visit friends and relatives. This day is known as king’s Losar (gyal-po lo-sar).
While meeting loved ones, people greet one another ‘Tashi Delek’, which means good luck for the next year. In the evening, the Tibetans carry torches across their homes yelling to drive away evil spirits from their abodes. The third day is reserved for visiting monasteries, shrines and stupas and making offerings to the monks and nuns in the form of clothes and food. Apart from Tibet, Losar festival is celebrated by the Buddhist population in states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh in Kashmir. The Monpa tribe of Tawang and the Memba of the Mechukha valley of Arunachal Pradesh also mark this festival.