Festivals in Chamdo
Major Festivals in Chamdo
There are many folk festivals in Khamba region and in different areas people have their own special ways to celebrate. In general, Khamba region has its own characteristics compared with other areas in Tibet. For instance, the major festivals such as Shoton Festival and Wangguo Festival in regions like Lhasa are not celebrated in Khamba region.
Tibetan New Year (Losar): Top
It is the biggest traditional festival in Tibet. In Chamdo area, people begin to make the preparations for the New Year from early December of Tibetan calendar. The preparations include food, clothes and other things for the New Year. Every household will give their home a thorough clean .At the dawn of December 29, dust and dirty water are poured on the streets, so as to be tramped and stamped by as many people as possible. This is a symbol for saying good-bye to the old year and welcoming the New Year. Before the dinner, people draw the lucky signs such as the sun, the moon, the stars and “Yungchung” with colorful pens or red mud on the center of the walls of kitchen. The whole family gathers together for dinner and has “Guthuk” (mixed-grain porridge).
In some areas of eastern Khamba, such as Kangding, there is the custom called “fighting for the first water”. Generally activities like watching horse racing, greeting temples, visiting relatives and friends and dancing “Kwuochuang” will start from January 1st and last till January 15th. On January 3rd, people in Chamdo gathered 0spontaneously to hold celebrating activities. They drink highland barley spirit or beer, dance Corchom circle dance,RePa dance or Shinze dance, sing happily and go picnics all night long.
Butter-Oil Lamp Festival Top
From Jan 1 to 15 of Tibetan calendar, living Buddha, Geshi and lamas gather at Chambaling Monastery of Chamdo for the Great Prayer Ceremony. In the evening of the 15th, when the ceremony moves to a highlight, five butter-oil flower altars symbolizing the Buddha and all the living Buddha and senior lamas in Chambaling Monastery’s history are set up around the monastery.The nomadic and farmers, holding hadas in their hands, flow into the monastery when evening arrives. They worship the flower lamps and altars, offer pure-white hadas. After that, they sing and dance together, enjoy themselves.
Saga Dawa Top
The Tibetans is the only people in the whole world to celebrate the religious festival “Saga Dawa”. It is said that the Buddha was born on the 7th day of Saga Dawa month of Iron Monkey year, transcendented on the 15th day of Saga Dawa month of Wooden Horse year and died on the 15th day of Saga Dawa month of Iron Dragon year (all dates refer to Tibetan calendar). So the Tibetans see month of Saga Dawa as a blessed and lucky month. In this month, temples would hold series of religious activities. In the first half of the month, people will go on a vegetarian diet, make a pilgrimage to a temple on a famous mountain and worship Buddha. They light butter-oil lamps at home and before the statue of Buddha.
Yarlong Cultural Festival Top
“Yarlong” means living nicely in summer. It is celebrated from July 3 to 15 of Tibetan calendar. All the things needed for the festival are provided by Chambaling Monastery. Splendid tents are set up on the lawn in front of Grand RongJueEnMu Monastery(used to be the summer monastery for Pabala Living Buddha). There are Tibetan beds, cushions and beddings in the tents. Niches are placed in the tents too. In the niches there are food and sweets. During the festival, the nomadic and farmers from the areas around also brought food and wine, and set up different size of tents beside the monastery. They watch Tibetan opera, dance Corchom circle dance, sing folk songs and wish “Yarlong Festival” will exist forever.
Zhongque Festival Top
Since the people of Khamba has a long history and tradition of trading, the local festivals with trading and business activities as main subjects are quite important. “Zhongque Festival” of Riwoqe County in Chamdo is one of them. People say those who pray to the Buddha during Zhongque Festival will have good luck in doing business. Thus it attracts more and more merchants who are from the nearby areas, or even from other provinces in the Tibetan region to do business. Today it has become a major festival for both religious and commercial activities. Zhachong Festival (pottery fair) in Aba County is another popular comprehensive local trading fair.
The oldest traditional festival in Riwoqe County. It means “a festival for practice and rules” in Tibetan language. The festival is celebrated on June 15 of Tibetan calendar. It is said the festival commemorates the establishment of the main hall of Gelug Sect’s mother monastery “Chajiema” (meaning brilliant) at Dalong, which was administrated by Wujingongbu, a senior lama of Gelug Sect. People believe that those who worship Buddha and make vows to Buddha during “Zhongque Festival” will have good luck in doing business. Nowadays Zhongque Festival has transformed into a mixed festival for religious ceremony, trading and professional shows. In such way, some people also call it material trading festival.
Horse racing festival Top
Horse racing festival is a fairly common one in Tibetan area. The elders say that horse racing festival in Khmba region was left by Hero Gesaer , who gained the throne by defeating all the warriors at a horse-racing festival on an un-saddled horse. Since then, the riders on the prairie followed Hero Gesaer and held various kinds of horse races. Khamba men are eager to show their strength and bravery on the festival. Horse racing festival contains trading, commercial and cultural exchange activities too. All these made it the most long-lasting and popular local social activity. Contests of horse racing include horse race, archery , shooting on gallop, picking-up hada scarf on gallop, speed racing, demonstrations of horsemanship, acrobatic riding etc. The winners will receive the respect and attention as Hero Gesaer, boys being adored by girls and horses being called “fairy horses”.
Saley Festival Top
“Saley” means going picnic. From May to June of Tibetan calendar, the Tibetans of Chamdo would take beddings, nice food that enough for several days and other needed things, either on horse or on foot, go to the countryside. They set up tents, lay down Tibetan cushions, immerse themselves in good drink and food, singing, horse racing and playing games. They would only come back after enjoying themselves to the maximum.
In early July of Tibetan calendar, there are series of bathing activities which last about one week. According to the local folklore, from July 30 to Aug 6 of Tibetan calendar, “the sacred planet Venus” will show up in the sky. It is believed that when it appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and can cure all kinds of diseases. Therefore all the people, men and women, seniors and juniors, go to the river for bathing and enjoy the fun of nature.
There are many religious festivals in Tibetan areas. In Khamba, a lot of monasteries hold great prayer ceremonies from Jan 1 to 15 of Tibetan calendar. The activities include chanting scriptures, enshrining Buddha, debating over scriptures as well as presenting delicate butter-oil handicrafts.
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