• Date – 26th of February 2024, Sunday.

Losar is another name of Tibetan New Year. Losar festival falls in the month of February.  It is an important holiday in Tibet, Bhutan and for certain special groups in Nepal and India. This festival is the biggest event in the year.

As per as the lunar calendar system, one year is made up of every twelve months and the Losar starts from the first day of the first month of this lunar year.

Losar is celebrated for a period of 15 days, with the main celebrations happening on the first three days. On the first day of the Losar, liquor called changkol is made, the second day of Losar is known as King’s Losar. The New Year ceremony is most commonly preceded by the five-day practice of Vajrakilaya. In India There is a strong concentration of the Buddhist population in some states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal and Ladakh in Kashmir.

  • History – Tibetan New Year is a traditional celebration which has deep roots to a number of Buddhist beliefs and faiths.  However there have been historical reports that the proof that these New Year celebrations were there even before Buddhist Influence has been found. In the Pre Buddhist era the Tibetan people used to light incense sticks and pray to whatever form of God they believed in.  it was believed that keeping the Gods happy will yield good result and great harvest. It was also a celebration of saying Thanks to the almighty for a great harvest.

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With Buddhism making an inroad in Tibet, the rituals and celebrations started becoming more Buddhism centric it is believed that during the kingship of Pude Gangyal, the ninth king of Tibet, an old woman called Belma used to teach people about calculating the phases of moon and time calculations. Because of this lore some local people still call the Losar as the Bal Gyal Lo. . The Tibetan New Year is celebrated since the first King’s enthronement celebration therein.

  • Significant Symbolism – There are certain age old symbolism and rituals associated with Losar and which are found etched in the walls of houses and monasteries.  There are 8 such symbols which are considered to be extremely auspicious .it is firmly believed that when Lord Buddha attained Niravana, these were what were gifted to the Lord respectfully. Let us take a look at the objects and their symbolism –
      • Parasol – An emblem of Royal Dignity.
      • A pair of golden fish – Representative of Good Fortune.
      • Conch Shell – A tool to help spread the sound of Dharma
      • Lotus Blossom – Representing Clarity of Mind that leads to the path of Enlightenment.
      • Vase – Representative of prosperity and longevity.
      • Victory Banner – Representative of victory over worldly pleasures like lust, death and desires
      • The Wheel of Dharma –An important Buddhist Symbol. Representative of the Noble Eightfold Path or the Ashtangik-marga that would lead to Nirvana and end all sufferings.
      • The Eternal Knot – Representative of the union of wisdom and compassion and reminder of far reaching consequences.

Traditions of Losar

The traditions of Losar as mentioned earlier have become deeply embedded with those of Buddhism.

  • Spring Cleaning – People start cleaning their houses and airing their homes almost a month before the actual date of the Losar.  This is also the time when with the advent of the New Year, people want to decorate their houses with beautiful arts and artifacts. New colorful prayer flags are also strung. Every member of the family gets new clothes for this joyous occasion.
  • New Year’s Eve Customs – Traditionally people make a dumpling soup on this evening before the New Year. This is called Guhtuk and is made of nine types of ingredients like dried cheese and various types of grains. Each dumpling in the soup contains nine different types of ingredients. While the soup is consumed, everyone finds out what his dumpling contained of.  It is symbolic of how the New Year for that person will be or what is the nature of the person who consumed it. For example – chili pepper will denote a talkative person, wool a loving soul, Charcoal represents meanness, Sugar foretells of good luck, and so on. etc.
  • New Year’s Day Customs – On the New Year day people awake early and dress up well. . Before sunrise the women of a particular family brews a wine that is made with barley. With the sunrise the eldest female member of the family goes to fetch water from the nearest water source. The family  then comes together and greets each other and drinks the wine, and then goes out to meet and exchange wishes with relatives, family members and friends.
  • Evening of the New Year’s Day – People believe in driving away the evil forces on this auspicious evening and light torches to spread light against all things evil. They carry the torches around in the neighborhood and makes noise so that the evil is driven away. Tibetan people come out on the roads or streets, pass fire torches, dance and sing.
  • Rituals at the Monasteries – On the twenty ninth day of the twelfth month of the year, the Tibetan people perform an extraordinary ritual to please and conciliate the Gods so that the divinity remains blessed and pleased towards the entire population. The time for wishing the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year with consecrated sacred pills which are called Ril Bu are made out of roasted barley dough are offered by the people. The Garma performers then make a move in front of him and two senior monastery personnel carry out a civil argument on the teachings of the Buddha.  Then the Dalai Lama and others are thanked for leading the people towards enlightenment.  On the third day of the New Year celebrations people visit the cloisters or monasteries to offer the monks apparel, nourishment etc. In earlier times, the monks of Namgyal Monastery would offer a sacrificial cake on top of the main Tibetan Temple to reach the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors. After the achievement of this ceremony, all assemble together in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony.
  • Greetings — In Losar or the Tibetan New Year people constantly wish each other by way of greeting.  Let us have a look at some of the common new year greetings –
    • Happy New Year – ‘Lo Sar Bzang’.
    • Prosperity and Goodwill — ‘Lo Sar Bey Tashi Delek’.
    • Prosperity and Happiness — ‘Gtan Du Bde Ba Thob Par Shog’
    • Luck and Fortune — Lo Sar Bzang’ or ‘Bkra Shis Bde Legs’
    • Long life and good health — ‘A Ma Bag Gro Sku Khams Bzang’