Traditional Festivals and Events, Cultural Highlights of Tibet 2018-2019
If you plan your tour of Tibet well, not only will you be able to see the pristine beauty of the region, you can also participate in the numerous highly colourful Tibet Traditional festivals of the region. Hardly a day passes without some festivities, ceremonial observances or pilgrimages occurring in some part of the region or the other. Whichever festival you include in your travel itenery, be sure to take lots of pictures. Trust us, you are going to need it.
Different Tibetan Traditional Festivals
Tibetan New Year
Tibetan New Year, locally, it is known as Losar and is the most important holiday in Tibet. Losar is a 15-day festival, with the first 3 days filled with family, friends, and traditions that date back hundred of years. During this time Tibetans will cook special food, drink Tibetan barley wine, and visit Buddhist monasteries for prayers and New Year rituals. Losar coincides with the lunar calendar and is celebrated in the first lunar month of the year. (more details about Tibetan New Year 2013)
Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival
Monlam Prayer Festival, the Great Prayer Festival in Tibet is from the 4th to the 11th day in the first month in Tibetan calendar. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa who is the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order. Monlam Prayer Festival is the grandest Tibetan religious festival. There are normally religious dances. During this festival, thousands of monks gather for chanting in Jokhang Temple. (Read more details about Monlam Prayer Festival)
Tibet Butter Lamp Festival
The Butter Lamp Festival, locally it is called Chunga Choepa in Tibetan. This festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month. The event, also established by Tsong Khapa, is to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. Giant butter and Tsampa sculptures in different forms of auspicious symbols and figures are displayed in Barkhor Street. Local Tibetan people keep singing and dancing throughout the night on this date. (Read more details on Tibet Butter Lamp Festival)
Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is one of the three big festivals in Tibet. It is a full month festival honoring Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. This festival is in the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar. The day is believed to be the time when Sakyamuni was born; stepped into Buddha hood, and attained nirvana. This is obviously a Buddhism Highlighted festival in Tibet. In every horse year in Tibetan calendar, there are many pilgrims around the world go to do the circle trekking around Mt. Kailash. People refrain from killing animals by liberating them and abstain from eating meats. (read more details on Tibet Saga Dawa Festival)
Tibet Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival is known as Yoghurt Festival in Tibetan. It begins on the thirteenth day of the sixth Tibetan month. Normally this festival is in end of July or early August every year in lunar calendar. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century when pilgrims served yoghurt to the monks who had been doing their summer retreat so hard. Years later, Tibetan opera performances were added to the event to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas of the Buddha are unveiled on the mountain side opposite to Drepung Monastery while Tibetan opera troupes perform at Norbulingka, In the mean time, the "Shinning Buddha" activitiy also happens in Sera Monastery. (Read more details on Tibet Shoton Festival)
Tibet Bathing Festival
The Bathing Festival starts on the 27th day of the seventh lunar month and lasts a week when Venus appears in the sky. Tibetans set up tents along rivers, enjoy their food and bathe themselves under the star light. The holy bath activity was believed to heal all kinds of illnesses and wards off misfortune in human life.
Tibet horse Race Festival
Nakchu Horse Race Festival is the most important folk festival in Tibet. People who gather for the annual horse race festival in Nakchu town construct a tent city. Dressing themselves and their finest horse, thousands of herdsmen participate in the thrilling horse race, archery and horsemanship contest. Other folk activities and commodity fairs are also held. The event falls on early August.
There are different versions of the origin of Gyangtse Horse Rave Festival, which is also popular throughout Tibet. The festival usually falls in June. Horse race, archery contest, and other games are performed to entertain people. Religious activities also are part of the event. (more details on Horse Race Festival)
Buddha Unfolding Festival
Buddha Unfolding Festival is celebrated in Tashilhunpo Monastery from the fourteenth to the sixteenth day of the fifth Tibetan month. Unbelievable giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya are displayed on the monastery's Thangka Walls. Thousands of pilgrims rush to the monastery to give their offerings to the Buddhas for the accumulation of their merits. The tradition has lasted for 500 years.
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival falls on twenty-fifth day of the tenth Tibetan month. It is a festival when myriads of butter lamps are lit on rooftops with prayers chanted to commemorate the loss of Tsong Khapa who was a great religious reformer adept in Buddhism.
Paying homage to the Holy Mountain Festival (Choekhor Duechcen in Tibetan) falling on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month commemorates Sakyamuni's first sermon. People, in their best conduct during the occasion, go to monasteries to pay their respects to the Buddha. Circumambulation around the mountains is the popular practice during the festival. Picnicking, singing and dancing are also part of the event.
Universal Prayers Festival (Zamling Chisang in Tibetan) falls on the fifteenth day of the fifth Tibetan month. The event commemorates Padmasambhava's subjugation of evil spirits. People go to the monasteries to burn juniper branches.
Harvest Festival (Ongkor in Tibetan) is celebrated when crops ripen, usually around August. The festival is observed only in farming villages. People walk around their fields to thank the gods and deities for a good year's harvest. Singing, dancing, and horseracing are indispensable folk activities.
Have a quick look at Tibet Traditional Festival photos
Tibet Festivals and Events dates in Calendar 2018
|Tibetan New Year (Losar)||Lhasa/Kham/Amdo||Feb 16th||Lively one to two week festival celebrating the new year. Most important festival of the year. Read more about Tibetan New Year-Spring Festival|
|Monlam Prayer Festival||Lhasa/Kham/Amdo||Feb 19th-Feb 30th||The Great Prayer Festival. Many pilgrims gather at the Jokhang and other monasteries.|
|Butter Lamp Festival||Lhasa/Amdo||March 2nd||Monks compete in building tall butter sculpture offerings. Commemorates Buddha’s miracle at Sravasti. Fires and lamps are lit.|
(The holiest religious festival )
|Lhasa/Kham/Amdo||May 29th||Important month for pilgrims. Birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Read further about Tibetan Saga Dawa Festival
|Kalachakra day and Thangka Unveiling||Lhasa/Shigatse||June 28th||A giant thangka painting is hung at Tashilunpo and famous monasteries, this is the Amitabha Buddha meditation,recitationof sutras and taking eight Mahayana precepts.|
|Zamling Chisang/Samye Dolde||Lhasa / Samye||June 28th||Universal Incense Offering Day. Picnic, sing, and dance in the park and Tibetans go to the tops of local mountains to burn incense and hang prayer flags.|
|Choekor Duchen||Lhasa||July 16th||Commemorates and honoring the day that the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, India, and first turned the wheel of the dharma.|
|Gyantse Horse Race||Gyantse County||July 20th||Horse & yak racing, dancing, singing, and games. This is the biggest festival in Gyantse|
|Shoton Yogurt Festival||Lhasa||Aug 11th- 16th||Thangka unveiling at Drepung Monastery. Picnics and operas are held in parks, particularly under the trees at Norbulingka park. Bonfires at night.|
|Nagchu Horse Race||Lhasa||Aug 1-4th||Horse & yak racing, dancing, singing, and games.|
|Lhabab Dechen||Lhasa||Oct 31st||Festival observing the descent of Buddha from heaven.|
|Palden Lhamo Festival||Lhasa||Nov 23rd||A float of Tibet’s protector deity Palden Lhamo is paraded through the city.|
|Ganden Ngachoe||all Tibet regions||Dec 2nd||Memorial for Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa school. Buddhists light lamps, make offerings, and pray.|
|Ganden Thangka Unveiling||Lhasa Ganden||Aug 27th||A giant thangka painting is hung at Ganden Monastery.|
|Jyekundo Horse Festival||Kham – Yushu||July 25-30||The biggest horse racing and yak racing festival in Tibet, Tibetan people all over the Kham region come for camp at Batang horse racing grassland, singing, dancing, enjoy the unique cultural festival.|
|Litang Horse Festival||Kham – Litang||August 1-5||Horse racing, circle dance, fashion shows.|
|Kumbum Monastery Festival||Amdo||April 28th||Prayers, thangka unveiling, monks’ mask dance. This is also Amitabha Bdudha,meditation, recitation of sutras and taking Eight Mahayana Precepts, Kalachakra day|
|Ngawa Losar / Monlam||Amdo||Feb 28- Mar 2nd||Horseback fashion show, strength contest, giant thangka unveiling.|
|Labrang Losar/Monlam||Amdo||Feb 28-March 2nd||Commemorates Buddha’s miracle at Sravasti, thangka unveiling.|
|Repkong Losar / Monlam Prayer Festival||Amdo||Feb 19- Mar 2nd||Commemorates Buddha’s miracle at Sravasti, village tea party, monks Cham mask dance, Thangka unveiling and many other activities in Rebkong, Amdo Tibet.|
|Repkong Shaman Festival||Amdo Rebkong||July 28 – Aug 4th||Ritual demon exorcism, village Shamen dancing performance and Tibetan traditional dress show
|Butter Sculpture Arts Exhibition||Amdo Kumbum||March 2nd (evening)||Monks compete in building tall butter sculpture offerings. Commemorates Buddha’s miracle at Sravasti. Fires and lamps are lit. This festival is held in Kumbum, Rebkong, Labrang and Ngawa in Amdo Tibet|