“Tashi delek” (blessings and good luck)!!!
These are the two words that wish you Losar, the Tibetan New Year. New clothes, toys, candies, breads, fruits and fresh Chang beer; modern day Losar has come a long way from being a spiritual ceremony in its original avatar during pre-Buddhist Bön period in Tibet.
Losar is celebrated mainly by Buddhists in Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim and Tibetan expatriate communities throughout the world. But modern day Losar celebrations bring together the monastic and surrounding communities, both Tibetan and non-Tibetan. People eat celebratory foods such as guthuk noodles, made from cereals and dried cheese, and various types of vegetable soups. They often drink Changkol, a type of rice wine similar to Japanese sake.
In Tibetan, “Lo” means “Year” and “Sar” means “New”. Normally a three-day festival, Losar’s celebration at times can be as long as two weeks. The most awaited part of this festival is the Cham or Losar Cham, the ceremonial masked dance which is essentially poetic renditions of the colourful man. The theatrical dances hold great spiritual significance. It’s a chance for families to come together under the guidance of their spiritual masters. It’s also an opportunity for devotees to express their faith, receive blessings and, in return, support the monastery with donations in cash and kind. Above all Losar is a ritual with the main purpose to ward off evil by invoking the powerful deities.
Losar normally falls in January or February but depending upon the Tibetan lunar calendar it is different each year. This year the first day of the Iron Rabbit Year 2138 fell on 5th of March. Like the Chinese New Year, each Tibetan New Year is identified by an animal and an element. The Tibetan New Year of 2011 bounds in with the Female Iron Hare or Rabbit, which is said to be a particularly joyful and prosperous year ahead.
Over the years, Tibetan festivals including Losar have become an opportunity to realign and reassert the demand for Free Tibet. This year, in the background of winds of change blowing from the Arab world, Losar has provided another opportunity to the Tibetan community in exile to highlight the suffering and oppression in Tibet.