What is Losar?

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Losar is the Tibetan meaning “new year.” ‘Lo‘ means year and ‘sar‘ means new. Losar is the most important festival celebrated by Tibetans all over the world. The Tibetan calendar is a lunar calendar, that is, the Tibetan year is composed of either 12 or 13 lunar months, each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added approximately every three years, so that an average Tibetan year is equal to the solar year.

During the festival of Losar, it’s traditional to wear new clothes. People greet each other with the customary New-Year greeting of “Tashi Delek” (good luck) and visit monasteries, stupas and shrines to make offerings and donations in the form of food and other gifts to the monks and nuns. They also visit their dear ones and exchange gifts in various forms.

Preparations for Losar begin almost a month before the festival begins with the cleaning and whitewashing of homes and shopping for the great feasts.

This is a time when one gets to enjoy Guthuk (soups made from different kinds of vegetables and even wine) the whole night. As a matter of fun, ingredients such as chillies, salt, wool, rice and even coal are hidden in one’s dough balls and given out. If a person finds a chilli, he/she is considered talkative. If a person finds coal, he/she is regarded to have a ‘black heart’. Finding wood, rice etc are considered as a ‘good sign’. These are taken lightheartedly.

Preparations in the monasteries begin earlier on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month, a day before the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. Hectic preparations are made on the last day for the New Year with the finest decorations called ‘Lama Losar’.

Various kinds of rituals are organised to avert negativity of the Old in the New Year and to ward off all forms of evils.

Finally, on the dawn of New Year, the Dalai Lama leads the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas and monks join the ceremony offering prayers. The monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the invocation of Palden Lhamo (Female Goddess, One of the Two Protectors). To wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, consecrated long-life pills (tse-ril) are offered by the representatives of the three great monasteries and Tantric Colleges, etc.

Then entertainers perform a dance of good wishes, followed by a debate about Buddhism by two senior monks, where a whole spectrum of Buddhist teaching is briefly reviewed. Requests are made to His Holiness and holders of the Samara doctrine to serve for life-long through their enlightened activities. It is concluded with a ceremonial farewell to His Holiness.

Second day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana. His Holiness exchanges greetings with monastic, lay and foreign dignitaries.

On the third day, people and monks celebrate in all colours and enjoy New Year. Earlier, before the Chinese came in Tibet, Losar was celebrated for fifteen days or more. In India now, it has been minimized to three days.

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