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
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.
Monniken dragen foto van Dalai
Lama tijdens Losar
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.
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.
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.
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.
more Nepali festivals
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Terug in Kathmandu / fietsen naar
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24 november - 17 december 2004 -
Streetdance / Bungamati & Khokana / goede doel
23 oktober - 5 november 2004 -
Changu Narayan, Phutung, Pokhara6 november - 23 november -
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