Losar


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Losar (Tibetan New Year)

Type of Holiday: Calendar/Seasonal, Religious (Tibetan Buddhism)
Date of Observation: February-March; first day of first Tibetan lunar month
Where Celebrated: India, Nepal, Tibet
Symbols and Customs: Dakar, Guthuk, Mystery Play of Tibet, Pebbles
Related Holidays: Dosmoche

ORIGINS

Losar, the Tibetan New Year, is part of Buddhism, one of the four largest religious families in the world. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 B . C . E .), who came to be known as Buddha, or "The Enlightened One." The basic tenets of Buddhism can be summarized in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are 1) the truth and reality of suffering; 2) suffering is caused by desire; 3) the way to end suffering is to end desire; and 4) the Eightfold Path shows the way to end suffering. The Eightfold Path consists of 1) right view or right understanding; 2) right thoughts and aspirations; 3) right speech; 4) right conduct and action; 5) right way of life; 6) right effort; 7) right mindfulness; and 8) right contemplation.

Tibetan Buddhism is defined not only by Buddhist teachings, but also by Tibetan indigenous religious traditions and folk practices. Tibetans observe a form of Buddhism known as Lamaism, Lama Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. Their religion involves belief in evil spirits, magic, and the spirits of nature.

Many of the traditions surrounding the celebration of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, are associated with these beliefs. It was at one time observed only in Tibet, but since the People's Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950 and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, Losar is now celebrated by Tibetan refugees living in India and Nepal as well. The exact date is determined by Tibetan astrologers in Dharmsala, India, where the current Dalai Lama lives.

Before the new year actually arrives, bad memories from the old year must be chased away. Houses are cleaned and whitewashed and the lucky signs on them are repainted; a small amount of the dirt collected is thrown away at a crossroads where spirits might dwell. On the last day of the old year, Tibetan Buddhist monks conduct Losar

ceremonies aimed at driving out evil spirits and negative forces. In one such ritual, known as the MYSTERY PLAY OF TIBET , monks wearing grotesque masks and exotic robes perform a dance in which they portray the struggle between good and evil.

As the new year dawns, people try to get to a river, lake, stream, or pond for a ritual drink of water, which they believe will ensure a lucky year without problems or obstacles. Another way of ensuring good luck in the coming year is to eat rice cooked with butter and garnished with other flavorings. The rest of the new year's celebration, which lasts three days, is spent eating, drinking, and merrymaking, with dances, operas, and archery competitions.

Tibetan exiles living in India celebrate Losar by flocking to the temple in Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama maintains a residence and works to preserve the cultural and religious heritage of Tibet. On the second day of the new year, he blesses people by touching their heads and giving them a piece of red-and-white string. They tie the string around their necks in the belief that it will protect them from illness. Losar is also observed in Ladakh, in the eastern part of Kashmir, as well as among refugee Tibetans living elsewhere in India.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Dakar

The figure who goes from door to door on Losar, dressed like a beggar but performing like an acrobat, is known as the Dakar. He delivers good luck messages and, in return, is welcomed and given snacks or money.

Guthuk

Guthuk is a special dish prepared for the Losar celebration. In it are dumplings that contain omens: a pebble symbolizes a long, healthy life; cayenne pepper suggests that the individual has a temperamental personality; a piece of charcoal means that the recipient has a black heart.

Mystery Play of Tibet

Originally performed by a devil-dancing cult to drive out the old year along with its demons and human enemies, this annual dramatic performance is known to Tibetans as the Dance of the Red Tiger Devil and to Europeans as the Pageant of the Lamas or the Mystery Play of Tibet. It symbolizes the triumph of the Indian missionary monks over the pagan devils; more recently, it has been changed to represent the assassination of Langdarma, the king who tried to rid Tibet of Lamaism. Despite its many transformations over the years, however, the play continues to retain the devil-dancing features of its earliest form. The play is performed on the last day of the year in the courtyards of Buddhist temples or monasteries and continues for two days. A group of priests in black miters (tall hats) is confronted by one group of demons after another, which they manage to exorcise. On the second day, an effigy representing the enemies of Tibet and Lamaism is dismembered and disemboweled. Pieces of the effigy, which is made out of dough, are thrown to the audience, who eat them or keep them to use as good-luck charms. All of this is accompanied by the blowing of long horns and the clash of huge cymbals.

The dance reenacts a ritual combat of good against evil. It ends with the burning of a pyramid-shaped object with a skull-like head at the apex. This sacrifice is interpreted as a sign that the temple has been rid of evil.

Pebbles

Tibetan Buddhists believe that an account of each person's good and evil deeds is kept in the form of white and black pebbles, and that on the Day of Judgment the two lots are weighed against each other to decide the individual's fate. On Losar, therefore, Tibetans repent for the sins that they have committed during the past year and promise to display only good conduct in the coming year, hoping that they can secure a favorable balance of black and white pebbles.

FURTHER READING

Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Crim, Keith R. The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Leach, Maria, ed. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology & Leg- end. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Sanon, Arun. Festive India. New Delhi: Frank Bros., 1986. Van Straalen, Alice. The Book of Holidays Around the World. New York: Dutton, 1986.

WEB SITE

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/holydays/losar.shtml Losar

Losar

December-January; first day of first Tibetan lunar month
Losar is the new year in Tibet, according to the Tibetan calendar, which is in use throughout the Himalayan region; the date is determined by Tibetan astrologers in Dharmsala, India.
Before the new year, bad memories from the old year must be chased away, so houses are whitewashed and thoroughly cleaned. A little of the dirt collected is thrown away at a crossroads where spirits might dwell. A special dish called guthuk is prepared; in it are dumplings holding omens: a pebble promises life as durable as a diamond; cayenne pepper suggests a temperamental personality; a piece of charcoal would mean the recipient has a black heart. On the last day of the old year, monks conduct ceremonies to drive out evil spirits and negative forces. In one such ritual, the monks, in grotesque masks and wigs and exotic robes, perform a dance in which they portray the struggle between good and evil ( see Mystery Play of Tibet).
On the first day of the year, people arise early to place water and offerings on their household shrines. In the three days of the celebration, much special food and drink is prepared. This is a time of hospitality and merrymaking, with feasts, dances, and archery competitions.
Tibet was invaded by the Chinese in 1949, and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of Tibet, has been in exile since 1959. Much of the Tibetan culture has been suppressed, but festivals are still observed in a modest way in Tibet and by Tibetans in exile.
Tibetan exiles in India celebrate Losar by flocking to the temple in Dharmsala where the Dalai Lama lives. On the second day of the new year, he blesses people by touching their heads and giving them a piece of red-and-white string. People tie the blessed string around their necks as a protection from illness.
In Bodhnath, on the eastern side of Kathmandu, Nepal, crowds of Tibetan refugees visit the stupa there to watch lamas perform rites. Copper horns are blown, there are masked dances, and a portrait of the Dalai Lama is displayed.
CONTACTS:
Office of Tibet
Tibet House, 1 Culworth St.
London, NW8 7AF United Kingdom
44-20-7722-5378; fax: 44-20-7722-0362
www.tibet.com
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, Feb 23
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 777
EncyRel-1987, vol. 2, p. 552
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 78
RelHolCal-2004, p. 217
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Wangdu said that in his family, momos are not eaten on the first day of Losar, because they look like purses for holding money -- and the mind is supposed to focus on purification and family rather than work and financial worries.
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The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who greeted thousands of Tibetans in the main Buddhist temple in the north Indian town of Dharamsala at the start of what would otherwise be a two-week Losar celebration, said the gesture was to honor those in Tibet.
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Not a single Western traveler was seen in Lhasa or near the monastery, but other tourists and worshippers were freely allowed to do their prostration at the entrance or enter the monastery to worship for the 15th day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, which is a major day for worship.
"Como tipo de lo que puede ser un grupo escolar de seis grados, (tres para cada sexo), reproducimos en este numero el plano de las escuelas de Losar de la Vera [ ...
Every year, a masked dance, or chaam, is held during Losar, the Tibetan new year, attracting visitors form far and wide.
Losar ticulos cientificos tienenun formato tipico, conocido como sistema IMRAD (ANSI, 1979), que incluye las siguientes secciones (en el orden dado):