By Tsering Dhundup
DHARAMSHALA, Feb 3: In the rich tapestry of Tibetan traditions, the celebration of the New Year holds profound significance, marked by age-old rituals and customs. One of the key customs is the Guthuk on the 29th day of the 12th Tibetan calendar month, followed by Namgang, considered the conclusive day of the year. This year, the Tibetan Losar falls on February 10 of the Gregorian calendar.
The current Tibetan lunar calendar year introduces a distinctive situation as the 29th day is said to be omitted from the Tibetan calendar, casting uncertainty over the date of the Guthuk celebrations. This anomaly has fuelled confusion, particularly on social media platforms, where misinformation regarding the appropriate day for Guthuk festivities has proliferated. Voice memos circulating online advocate for celebrating Guthuk on the day of Namgang, a stance conflicting with information provided by the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute. According to the institute, Guthuk is to be celebrated on the 28th day of the Tibetan calendar, falling on February 8, 2024.
In an interview with Phayul, Tenzin Loden, an astrologer and head of the Astro Outreach Tour Department of the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute, shared insights into the decision to celebrate Guthuk on the 28th day this year, omitting the 29th day from the calendar. Londen explained that this choice stems from both practical considerations and astrological principles.
Loden clarified that the rumours circulating on social media about celebrating Guthuk on Namgang might be based on the belief that in the presence of double days, one should calculate the date before, and if a day is omitted, it should be accounted for on the next day. Contrary to this social media speculation, Londen emphasized that astrologically, there is no omission of days. Instead, days are either collected on the day before or after the omitted day. According to astrological calculations, the 28th day of a month traditionally holds less authority. Therefore, Mentsekhang and astrological calculations suggest that this year’s 29th day, Guthuk, should be included in the 28th day of the month.
Another factor in this decision is the auspiciousness of the day. Londen pointed out that during the 29th day of the last month of the Tibetan lunar year, significant rituals like Gucham, Gutor, and Gulue are performed. Celebrating Nyishu Gu on Namgang, where Derka is made in the morning and if Gulue (effigies) is dispatched in the evening, might not align well with these important rituals. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, a prominent Tibetan monastery will be performing Gucham on the 28th day, reinforcing the auspiciousness of celebrating Nyishu Gu on the same day.
The Tibetan word Guthuk constitutes two words, gu (Tibetan: nine) and thuk (Tibetan: tiny dough in soup), and their combination translates to thukpa of the ninth or nine. In Tibetan custom, the general belief that all odd numbers are auspicious dates back to the pre-Buddhist era. The number 9, in particular, is associated with good luck. Therefore, when preparing and savouring Guthuk, no less than nine ingredients must be added to this dish.
Namgang is celebrated as the last day of the year in the Tibetan lunar calendar and serves as the culmination of the old year. On this day, the tradition calls for setting up auspicious offerings like Derkha and Chemar, marking the appropriate time for various rituals distinct from those reserved for Guthuk celebrations.