Loshar Tibetan New Year - Nepal

Teej festival - Pashipatinath nabij Kathmandu








Lhosar Tibetan New Year - Nepal

In February or March Tibetans celebrate the Losar Festival - The Tibetan New Year

Himalayan people for several days in the Tibetan New Year Day (Losar). Festive activities like singing, dancing and feasting are observed.

A colorful crowd gathers in the area around the stupa. Hundreds of Tibetans are dressed in a wide variety of beautiful traditional costumes sometimes mixed with western clothes. They smile, laugh and greet family and friends as they bump into them in the crowd. The atmosphere is saturated with anticipation. A group of monks led by a high rank teacher appear and pass through the lion-framed gate into the inner area of the stupa.

tsampa offeren loshar monniken tijdens lhosar Tibetaan

Tsampa offerings

Monniken dragen foto van Dalai Lama tijdens Losar

Tibetaanse man

The Tibetans lift their arms, singing with voices slowly increasing in volume and pitch. As the song reaches its climax, hands open and white clouds fills the air. Flour is slowly descending on us, symbolizing hopes of a coming year of sufficient material resources, good health, and happiness. My friend tries to brush it off, is gently prevented, then informed that to keep it on his jacket is a sign of good fortune.

This is Lhosar, Tibetan New Year, celebrated at the time of the new moon in February or March. The setting is Boudha, a village northeast of Kathmandu and the site of one of the largest Tibetan communities in Nepal. Bhouddanath

Two forces formed this refugee community. One being the intolerable conditions in Tibet following the Chinese occupation in the 1950s, and the subsequent steady stream of Tibetan refugees re-settling in countries across the world. The attracting force of this particular village is the Tibetans familiarity with Boudha and the journey there. A familiarity acquired through centuries of pilgrimage to Boudhanath, one of a number of stupas found across the Buddhist areas of the world, and this one among the most important religious monuments for Buddhists in the Himalayan region.

Despite differences in appearance, large or miniature, domed or with a pyramid shaped spire, all stupas express the Buddhist view of the nature of mind and reality. Every feature, from their overall form and down to their smallest details, represent aspects of Buddhist philosophy. This particular stupa is one of the largest and most well-known. Its white dome and painted eyes, the all-seeing and compassionate eyes of the Buddha, are made known across the world through photographs and movies.

Of great entertainment value for Tibetans and westerners alike, the traditional Tor-gya rite at Loshar attracts a large audience. The detailed symbolism of the dance is sometimes difficult to understand. At various times the performance is dominated by monks in beautifully brocaded silk costumes performing slow dances, a group of pale ghosts, demon-like figures, and two jesters performing practical jokes on each other and the audience. Everything dramatically accompanied by cymbals and various horns.

Loshar is the main holiday for Tibetans. It provides a day or two off from work and an opportunity to indulge in a favorite past time for Tibetans - celebration and spending time with family and friends. Apart from the morning festivities by the stupa the streets are unusually quiet and empty at this time.

Normally though, Boudha is buzzing with the activities of daily life. The area around Boudhanath houses an abundance of shops, restaurants and guest houses run by Tibetans and also dozens of larger and smaller monasteries.Bhoudda - Tibetaanse stupa

These secular and religious activities testify to the ability and willingness of the Tibetans to create a new life in a foreign country, partly adopting aspects of modern western life and partly recreating their traditional life. Modern western technology and lifestyle coexists in a striking way with traditional clothes and artifacts and and lifestyles formed centuries ago. Here you find robed monks drinking tea, watching CNN and Fashion Channel satellite transmitted to local guest houses.

Not only the traditional and the modern, but also the spiritual and the secular are interwoven. Both monks and lay people perform ordinary mundane activities as well as religious activities such as reciting mantras, circumambulating the stupa and turning small prayer wheels located in recesses in the stupa wall. The secular takes on a spiritual significance and the spiritual is manifested through the activities of ordinary life.

In addition to being industrious the Tibetans are known to be sincere and friendly. It is not unusual for even a short-term visitor to be invited into a shop, a home, or a monastery kitchen for a cup of tea, a meal, and a good conversation. Living there for a few weeks you easily make friends among the people, be it the family running the guest house where you live, monks you meet at the streets or in tea shops or shopkeeper families. Tibetans in Boudha more often than not know enough English to converse.

Buddhist world-view and practice are an integral part of life for most Tibetans, be they monks, nuns or lay people. The founder of Buddhism, Siddharta Gautama, set out to explore the nature of mind 2500 years ago in northern India. After years of meditation he realized the nature of mind and reality and attained Enlightment. In the Four Noble Truths, Buddhism in a nutshell, he points out that we are chronically dissatisfied with life and the cause of this dissatisfaction is identified as the dualistic and fragmented way we experience the world. Fortunately there is a path which, if followed diligently and under guidance of a teacher, will lead to a lasting and profound fulfillment. This eightfold path, which includes meditation and ethical activities, will open up for a direct, intimate and liberating experience of the nature of mind and reality. Through realizing the oneness and ever changing nature of all phenomena one develops an attitude of non-attachment to fleeting phenomena and compassion for all beings.

A day in Boudhanath

So, if you live in Boudha what can you expect from an ordinary day? Just before sunrise Boudha comes to life. Stray dogs bark, roosters crow, monks in the monasteries blow horns and chant, flickers of light escape through cracks in doors and walls, some people walk to their shops, others are on their bikes quietly rattling along the dirt roads, a few cars are expelling black fumes. Buildings and people appear as blue silhouettes in the dim morning light. At the stupa people are circumambulating and reciting mantras, by the road circling the stupa a few women are selling still warm bread.

The sun rises. Details of the surroundings are gently washed out by the morning mist and later reappear as the mist dissolves. Shops open, more people are on the streets, a leper takes her position at the main entrance to the stupa area. The main street becomes an inferno of bikes, honking cars driving on either side of the road, buses bursting with their human load, and dogs, cows and people filling the available areas of the road and the sidewalks.

zegenen van boudhanath stupa tijdens losar

Biddende Tibetanen

Boudhanath stupa opnieuw gewit

As it gets closer to noon more westerners appear, drawn by images and tales of Boudhanath. They are amazed by the stupa, fascinated by the Tibetan merchandise offered, and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in the area. In the afternoon most return to downtown Kathmandu.

At sunset the shops are closed and people go home to their families and a meal. Some evenings candles are sold on the street circling the stupa. There is a room opposite of the entrance into the stupa, dark and with Buddhist wall paintings, where candles are lit and placed. At full moon the stupa is lit by candles or electric lights. As in the Christian traditions these express a wide range of human hopes and aspirations such as good health and sufficient material resources. For the Tibetans a few more are added: a home country free from occupation, and the ultimate relief from suffering in Buddhism - a direct insight into the nature of mind.

As the night falls fewer people are outside. The streets become the domain of a few late wanderers and packs of howling dogs. Boudha is quiet for a few hours, then it awakens to a new day for locals and visitors alike - as the darkness is dispelled by the rising sun.


Maghe Sankranti

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