If it is possible, try to time your visit to Tibet so that you can catch one of the festivals in Tibet in one of its major cities liike Lhasa, Gyantse, Tsedang, Shigatse and Nakqchu. Pilgrims often flock to the city at these times and the city changes with a colorful party atmosphere.
The following Tibetan festivals are calculated according to the lunar calendar. So, please check with us beforehand for the precise dates.
Year Festival (Losar) (FEB )
Taking place in the first week of the first lunar month, Losar probably sees Lhasa at its most colourful. There are performances of Tibetan drama, pilgrims make incnse offerings and the streets are thronged with Tibetans dressed in their finest.
Monlam (Great Prayer Festival of Lhasa) (MAR )
Known also as the Great Prayer Festival, this is held midway through the first lunar month. An image of Maitreya from the Jokhang is borne around the Barkhor, attracting enthusiastic crowds of locals and pilgrims.
Maitreya Buddha’s Day
On the 25th of the first Tibetan month, the main statue of Maitreya Buddha, which is usually housed in the southern chapel of Lhasa’s Main Cathedral (jo-khang), is taken for a procession on a cart around the Barkhor. This statue was a part of the dowry received by Tibet’s King Songtsen Gampo from the Nepalese King Anshu Verma when the latter gave his daughter Princess Bhrikuti Devi was married to King Songtsen Gampo. This procession symbolizes the coming of Maitreya Buddha upon the fulfillment of the teachings of Shakyamuni.
Sakyamuni’s Enlightenment (SAGA DAWA)(JUN)
The 15th day of the fourth lunar month is an occasion for outdoor operas and also sees large numbers of pilgrims at the Jokhang and on the Barkhor circuit. Saga Dawa festival is also celebrated at the foothill of Mt Kaialsh near Tarboche.
Dharma Wheel Festival
On the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month, Buddha Shakyamuni gave his first sermon on the Four Noble Truths to the five disciples. This even is called, ‘the First Turning of the Wheel of Doctrine’. This day is celebrated by making offerings at the Main Cathedral, the Potala and other places. People visit holy sites and pay homage. On their way back home, the maidens weave twigs with leaves in their hair and they sing and chant opera songs and prayers. Their family welcome their with various drinks including chang. Some go on picnic.
On the 15th day of the 6th Tibetan month, 25 precious articles belonging to Ganden Monastery, which are normally locked in their treasure house, are displayed in the main shrine hall. A grand offering ceremony accompanies the display. These articles consist of the images of the sixteen Arhats, Akshobhya, the Secret Assembly, the Four Great Kings, the Upasaka and the Hashang image.
Shotun (AUG )
The Yoghurt Festival is held in the first week of the seventh lunar month. It starts with unfurling of a giant thanka (special painting of Lord Buddha) at Drepung Monastery and moves down to the Norbulingka. Operas and masked dances are held, and locals take the occasion as another excuse for picnics. This is observed as the biggest festival in Tibet.
Bathing Festival (FEB)
The end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth lunar months sees locals washing away the grime of the previous year in the Lhasa River.
Buddha’s Descending Day from Heaven
The 22nd day of the ninth Tibetan month is celebrated as the day of Buddha Shakyamuni’s descent from the Tushita god-realm to Sankhasa in the city of Kashi. Tibetans in Lhasa and all over devote the day to religious activities, such as visiting temples, lighting butter lamps, chanting mantras, reading scriptures and the like. Thus, they accumulate merits and make the day a wholesome and worthwhile.
Paldren Lhamo Festival The 15th day of the 10th lunar month has a procession around the Barkhor bearing Paldren Lhamo, protective deity of the Jokhang.
Exact dates for 2019 will be given soon.