Losar is a Tibetan Buddhist festival, based on the Buddhist calendar and celebrated by people in Bhutan, Tibet and certain groups of people in Nepal and India. The word Losar is derived from the Tibetan words ‘lo’ which means ‘year’ and ‘sar’ which means ‘new’. This holiday is celebrated on various dates depending on the location.
Celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, Losar coincides with a date in February or March as per the Gregorian calendar. In the year 2019, the festival was celebrated on the 5th to 6th of February. However, in Nepal, the festival is called Lhochhar and is celebrated about 8 weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar. Losar occurs almost near or on the same day of the Chinese New Year and Mongolian New Year, but the traditions and rituals of Losar are exclusive only to Tibet.
This festival is celebrated for 15 days, with the first 3 days being the main days of festivity. Families in Tibet prepare for the festival a few days in advance, by thoroughly cleaning their homes, decorating it with flowers and painting auspicious signs like the sun, moon or reversed swastika with flour on the walls. The clutter in their homes and heart is cleared, quarrels are resolved and debts are repaid. New clothes are purchased and special foods like kapse (twisted fries) are prepared. A favourite drink at this time is chang (barley beer) which is served.
Festivities in Bhutan are quite similar to those in Tibet, except for a few distinct rituals. Besides cleaning up their homes, people in Bhutan make special offerings at temples called ‘Lama Losar’. Temples and monasteries are heavily decorated for the occasion and special puja rituals are done at the monasteries. New Year’s day begins with a breakfast eaten just at sunrise. Traditionally, afternoon lunch is had with the whole family and picnics are often arranged, ensuring celebration as well as relaxation. This is followed by feasting, singing, dancing and games like archery and darts.
Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir, also celebrates Losar in much the same way, though it is celebrated in the month of December. Considered as the most important festival of the region, Ladakh Buddhists make religious offerings before their deities in the various shrines or Gompas. Cultural events are held, traditional performances and ancient rituals are carried out during this festival. Music is blared and accompanied with plenty of dancing and celebration. Prayer flags are hoisted and streamers are hung in religious places to welcome the New Year.
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