“I believe that there are days in our lives when we feel defeated in our efforts but not in our intention.
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Thursday, February 7, 2008
Tibetan New Year
The celebration of Losar can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet. During the period when Tibetans practiced the Bon religion, every winter a spiritual ceremony was held, in which people offered large quantities of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and protectors.
This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have originated during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet. The festival is said to have begun when an old woman named Belma introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon. This festival took place during the flowering of the apricot trees of the Lhokha Yarla Shampo region in autumn, and it may have been the first celebration of what has become the traditional farmers' festival.
It was during this period that the arts of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges were first introduced in Tibet. The ceremonies which were instituted to celebrate these new capabilities can be recognized as precursors of the Losar festival. Later when the rudiments of the science of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer's festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year's festival.
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 illuminate the house 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.
On the morning of the new year, families rise before dawn, bathe, put on new clothes and fine jewelery. 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.
Labels: Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, Losar
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