Tibetan Calendar and Festivals

Saga Dawa Festival

Tibetan Calendar and Festivals

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There are different which are celebrated in . Tibet is rich in and tradition. All people enjoy festivals together to maintain harmony and among one another.

Buddhist Calendar in South Asia

The is a set of lunisolar calendars primarily used in mainland Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand as well as in Sri Lanka for and official occasions.

While the calendars share a common lineage, they also have minor but important variations such as intercalation schedules, month names, and numbering, use of cycles, etc.

In Thailand, the name Era is a year numbering system shared by the Thai lunisolar calendar and by the Thai solar calendar.

The Southeast Asian lunisolar calendars are largely based on an older version of the calendar, which uses the sidereal year as the solar year. One major difference is that the Southeast Asian systems, unlike their Indian cousins, do not use apparent reckoning to stay in sync with the sidereal year.

Instead, they employ their versions of the Metonic cycle. However, since the Metonic cycle is not very accurate for sidereal years, the Southeast Asian calendar is slowly drifting out of sync with the sidereal, approximately one day every 100 years. Yet no coordinated structural reforms of the lunisolar calendar have been undertaken.

Tibetan Calendar

The system with a 360-day lunar year and cycles of 60 and 180 years. As a year is longer than 360 days, some days are doubled, and others are skipped. To make the calendar fit the observations, occasionally even an extra month is introduced.

At the birth of a child, the charts would be checked to see if any special were required to ward off negative planetary influences. Also a “death chart” would often be prepared to decide the exact performance of the funeral. Improper performance could result in problems for the family, as well as for the deceased.

Some of the festivals are listed below:

Samye Cham Dance Festival

Samye Cham Dance Festival

The Cham Dance is a vibrant masked and costumed with roots in . Associated with the that prospered in the Great , it is a religious tradition performed by . The ritual is performed for the greater good of humanity, destruction of bad spirits and for moral instruction to viewers.

Origin of Samye Cham Dance

Cham was introduced in the eight Century by  (who introduced to Tibet), to subjugate the local demons that were obstructing the building of the first monastery in Tibet, Samye.

Butter Lantern Festival

The Butter Lantern Festival is the last high tide of celebrations of the . During the daytime, people go to pray in and monasteries while at night there is a lantern show.

Butter Lantern Festival

The butter lanterns they made prayer themselves. Various lanterns with shaped in the image of deities, , plants, and human figures are displayed, attracting people from the neighboring areas to appreciate them.

Some of the lanterns are as high as two or three-story buildings. Often, there is a puppet show held as well and the event will last for several days.

The Butter Lantern Festival is the happiest festival in Tibet.

Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival

Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival

Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival falls on the 10th day of the fourth month in .

Tsurphu Cham Dance is the as Cham Dance Festival celebrating in .

This cham dance festival is celebrated to commemorate the great Indian Padmasambhava who came to Tibet and devoted himself to promoting .

During the Tsurphu Festival, you can also observe some other religious activities, like grand assembly, Buddha exhibition, etc.

Jambay Lhakhang Festival

chlidren attending Jambay Lhakhang Festival

children attending Jambay Festival

Jambay Lhakhang is located in Bumthang and is situated on the way to the Kurjie Lhakhang.

Jambay Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom. It was founded by, Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan in the 7th century AD.  The king was destined to build 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness that was residing in the . The temple is one of the two of the 108 built-in . A second is located in Paro, the Kichu Lhakhang also built on the same day.

Legend has it that visited the site several and deemed it exceptionally . Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.

The first king of Bhutan,  Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala - ) inside the temple, to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Lhakhang.

The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa () from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The Lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the of built by the first king, in 1887.

One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, called Jambay Lhakhang Drup is hosted here. The festival lasts for five days. The highlight of the festival is the ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritualistic naked dance.

Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Some Image of mask dance. They are performing traditional dances.

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Mask dance in Jambay Lhakhang Festival

Saga Dawa Festival

Saga Dawa Festival

Saga Dawa Festival

Saga Dawa Festival is celebrated on the of the fourth Tibetan , which is the most important and holy festival of Tibet.

During the festival, everyone is seen reciting the prayers and playing the holy beads. The entire Tibet is deeply immersed in the festive and spiritual atmosphere. According to the Buddhist literary sources, Saga Dawa festival is celebrated to highlight the day when Sakyamuni attained the .

The most important part of the festival is replacing the ‘Tarboche Flagpole’, the famous huge pole that lies on the way of Kailash round.

Every year, the flagpole is brought down and a new pole is erected in the place. The pole replacing event is watched by all the locals and foreigners alike with wonder and awe. People all around the Tibet flock to the place to attend the Saga Dawa festival and to attach their small to the pole.

The whole event is guided and ritually instructed by a (a Buddhist teacher). The flagpole should stand upright or else it is believed to bring bad luck to Tibet.

Saga Dawa Festival

Saga Dawa Festival

 

Table showing some important festivals in Tibetan calendar

The table shows the important festivals that are celebrated in the hidden kingdom of the mountains.

Festival Venue Events   Year 2018
Tibetan New Year All Tibetan areas Tibetan New Year is characterized especially by dancing, , and a general spirit of merrymaking. Feb. 16
Monastery perform traditional dances during the , and cakes are made with butter sculptures. Feb. 19
The Butter Festival People sing and dance throughout the night, and thousands of lights are kept burning until dawn. Mar. 2
The Thangka Unveiling at Tashilunpo Tashilunpo Monastery The big Thangka with a Buddha image on it is unfolded, and the people all gather in front of the Thangka to pray. Jun. 28
Zamling Chisang Lhasa Tibetans gather together to burn incense to Buddha. Jun. 28
Saga Dawa Lhasa Saga Dawa is the peak time to worship Buddha for Tibetans and a peak time for pilgrimages. May. 29
The Gyantse Horse Race Festival Gyantse This festival is held in Gyantse, a county southwest of Lhasa with horse racing, Tibetan opera, ball games, etc. Jul. 20
Choekor Duechen / Tukbe Tseshi Lhasa Tibetans wear festival clothes to celebrate this festival and walk around a mountain and lake clockwise. Jul. 16
Samye Dhoede Samye Monastery Monks wear festival clothes and , and dance to drive away bad things and devils. Jun. 28
A big Thangka with a Buddha image on it is unveiled at Ganden Monastery. Aug. 27
The Nagqu Horse Race Festival Nagqu An important event in northern Tibet, everyone dresses in their finest and most colorful clothing. Aug. 1
Shoton Festival Lhasa A big thangka with an image of Buddha on it is unveiled at Monastery. People enjoy yogurt together on this day. Aug. 11
Dunba (The Bathing Festival) Lhasa Tibetans take a bath together in the river to drive away illness. Aug. 9
Lhabab Duechen Lhasa Buddha is said to return to on this day. Tibetans burn incenses in monasteries and pray. Nov. 10
Festival Jokhang Monastery and Barkhor Street The statue of the wrathful deity Palden Lhamo is carried at the head of a parade on Barkhor Street. Nov. 23
Ganden Nga-Choe Lhasa People celebrate this festival by lighting butter lamps. Feb. 10

 

 

About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas.

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