Tibetan New Year: Losar Festival in Spiti.

Losar is a festival in Tibetan Buddhism. The holiday is celebrated on various dates depending on location and tradition. The holiday is a new year’s festival, celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar,  in 2019 it is February 5th to 7th in the Gregorian calendar.

This Puja (prayer) is performed on the eve of Losar – the Tibetan New Year – by the monks in the monasteries. The date is set by the Lunar calendar, in Spiti its November. A dance called the Cham Dance is performed in the monasteries, to destroy the old negative year and bring the new positive year ahead. It is held in different monasteries each year.

At Losar “RASHI MASHI” (Happy New Year) is joyfully called out for the entire village to hear by the town crier,  filling the village with beautiful melodies. A band of three to four musicians greet and welcome the New Year by playing their instruments in each house throughout the village.  They walk from house to house in order of seniority declaring “RASH MASHI”to wish them good luck in the coming year. Throughout the night until dawn, they enter the kitchen and play for ten to fifteen minutes, enjoy a cup of tea and move onto the next house.

The families get ready and come together, dressed in their best clothes for the festive occasion. The families will then gather round the Puja room, say their prayers and light incense while making offerings. Afterwards, most of their morning is spent visiting family and neighbours and  giving and exchanging gifts such as bottles of Chang and specially made cakes, decorated with red colouring – which looks like icing sugar topping.

All the women and their children meet at the Apothecary’s house to savour hot tea and buns coated with pink icing. The Apothecary will be the only man there and will give an enlightening talk to the village women about how to lead a good life in the forthcoming year.

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