Lhosar marks Water-Sheep Year

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Kathmandu – For the Tibetans and all who reside in the high Himalayas, the new year has just begun with ‘Lhosar’ which was celebrated from March 3 to 5. On the last day of the festivities, the Boudhanath stupa was visited by a great crowd of devotees and others in the morning who had joined to watch the celebrations. On the third day, Tibetan people and monks gather at the Boudhanath stupa for a puja to receive blessings from a High Lama.

In Tibetan calendar, there are 12 cycles and every year has its different symbol. This year is marked as the year of Water-Sheep. Stupa View Restaurant at Boudhanath celebrated this ‘Lhosar’ as usual with much enthusiasm. Beate Miller, managing director of the restaurant who has been observing the festival for a decade now, said: “This is a great festival for all Tibetans and I find it quite interesting and religious. The first and second day of the festival are celebrated at home and the third day bears special significance as puja is performed and tsampa is thrown.”

Lots of devotees from different monasteries attended the puja in the morning. Afterwards there is a ritual of ‘tsampa throwing’. Tsampa is barley flour. Barley is a staple diet in the high Himalayas and this ritual is performed to revere the food. In another sense, spreading tsampa symbolically means spreading out good omen, peace and positive aspects of mind and soul.

As a continuation of the ritual, flag hissing was also observed on the third day. Flag hissing is a ceremony in which small prayer flags with printed mantras are tied on strings and around the stupa. This ritual too has a significant legend associated with it. All the flags containing the ‘mantra’ swing when wind blows and the belief is that with the blowing wind, the mantra is spread throughout the world and that spreads all the good and positive omen.

Since it is regarded as one of the most significant festivals for Tibetans, people come from different places to join their family and celebrate the festival together. They receive blessings from their elders and drink, eat and enjoy.

On the final day, the devotees circle the Stupa, some keep prostrating on the ground and some circle counting prayer beads in their hands. In such auspicious occasions, when the stupa is circled, it is believed that good wishes, omen and positive thinking multiply and more blessings are bestowed upon devotees.

In the evening, thousands of butter lamps are lighted for peace, prosperity and blessings. People drink ‘arak’, a kind of hard wine and ‘chhang’ (soft wine). A special dish called ‘kaspa’ which resembles cake is consumed too. To wind up the festival, everyone gather, eat, drink, dance and enjoy. As believed, this Water-Sheep Year is a good year for the human race.

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