Losar – Tibetan New Year

The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month. That is the day before the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. On that day the monasteries do a protector deities’ puja (a special kind of ritual) and begin preparations for the Losar celebrations. The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk. It is made of nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains. Also, dough balls are given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one’s dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one’s character. If a person finds chilies in their dough, it means they are talkative. If white-colored ingredients like salt, wool or rice are inside the dough it is considered a good sign. If a person finds coal in the dough it has much the same meaning as finding coal in one’s Christmas stocking; it means you have a “black heart”.

The last day of the year is a time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year.[8] In the monasteries it is a day of preparations. The finest decorations are put up and elaborate offerings are made called “Lama Losar”. In the early dawn of this day, the monks of Namgyal Monastery offer a sacrificial cake (Tibetan: tor ma) on top of the main temple (Potala in Tibet) to the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors, the glorious goddess Palden Lhamo. Led by the Dalai Lama, the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas, reincarnated monks or tulku, government officials and dignitaries join the ceremony and offer their contemplative prayers, while the monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the invocation of Palden Lhamo. After the completion of this ceremony, all assemble in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony. Seated on his or her respective cushions, everyone exchanges the traditional greeting, “Tashi Delek“.

In order to wish the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, consecrated sacred pills (Tibetan: ril bu) made out of roasted barley dough are offered to him by the representatives of the three great monasteries, the two Tantric Colleges, etc. Then entertainers (garma) perform a dance of good wishes. And two senior monks stage a debate on Buddhist philosophy, and conclude their debate with an auspicious recitation composed especially for the event, in which the whole spectrum of Buddhist teaching is first briefly reviewed. A request is made to the Dalai Lama and to all holders of the doctrine to remain for a long time amongst beings in Samsara (Sanskrit) in order to serve them through their enlightened activities. The official ceremony of the day then concludes with a ceremonial farewell to the His Holiness, who then retires to his palace.

The second day of Losar is known as King’s Losar (gyal-po lo-sar) because officially the day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana. His Holiness and his government exchange greetings with both monastic and lay dignitaries, such as representatives of China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and other foreign visitors.

Then from the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. In many parts of Tibet, Losar is celebrated for fifteen days or more. In India it is celebrated for three days. In other countries celebrations may be as little as one day.

The Losar is also celebrated in Nepal and India as well, where there is a strong concentration of the Buddhist population in the states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal and Ladakh in Kashmir. The Monpa tribe of Tawang and the Memba of the Mechukhavalley of Arunachal celebrate Losar. Yet the Memba of Mechukha celebrate Losar one month earlier than the other Losar-celebrating peoples.

Tibet’s Arts of Happiness

The idea of the above-mentioned theme for this year is because His Holiness the Dalai Lama turns 80 on the 4th of July, but it is also the TSSA’s 20th anniversary!   Our intention is to run with this theme to bring the culture of Tibet to the people of SA.

We will  show films and exhibit some of Tibet’s Arts and hope to engage with other organisations to assist with this awareness.

The Tibetan struggle has been ongoing for years and years, but the Tibetans strength and values remain solid;  they are an example of how mankind should approach challenges and have the patience and perseverance to ‘never give up’;  hopefully through showing their arts and how they have sustained their cultural roots through very difficult and trying circumstances we can shift some mindsets to embrace their own lives in a more meaningful way;  self-centredness and self-interest is rife in our society and creates a greed-based society with little interest in others….   From an early age Tibetan children in exile attend the Tibetan Children’s Villages based in India, whose motto is ‘ Others before Self’….!!

When people realise how unique the Tibetan culture is, and how it promotes solid values, which have been lost in most Societies today, it will give them enough reason to be more supportive of the Tibetan cause…..   last year we approached a school in KZN whose children took Tibet as a research project;  what came out of it was fantastic;  they made mandalas, a dancing ‘dragon’, prayer flags with their own prayers of goodwill and even constructed a sand mandala which Geshe Lhakdor helped dismantle at the closing ceremony he attended. Those children really understood the Tibetan situation and were given carte blanche to research any aspect of Tibet that they fancied.  A really worthwhile project.

Please feel free to contact the Society if you have any interest in our projects, or wish to learn more about Tibet.