Losar Festival is one of the main events that is celebrated with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm among Tibetan communities. Not just in India, the Losar festival is also popular in other countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and Myanmar. This is the time when people of different communities come together to thank Mother Nature for its generosity and also welcome more positive times into their lives. The whole day, the attendees of the festival smile and spread smiles. It is believed that the happiness that you have on this day will last for the entire year.
Before the festivities start, females clean their houses thoroughly to remove the bad luck from last year and make space for newer prosperity. Several religious ceremonies and rituals happen in the monasteries under the guidance of monks and spiritual guides. People feast on special meals and dance to the tunes of joy!
But what is the Losar Festival about? Where is it celebrated? When can you witness its magnificence? Why is it so important to the Tibetan communities?
You will find the answers to all these questions and a few others once you read this blog.
Without any further delay, scroll ahead to know more!
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What is the Losar Festival?
Losar is the Tibetan New Year when all the Buddhist communities from the region will gather to welcome a new Lunar year. The Lunar Calendar for 2024 will begin on the day people celebrate Losar Festival 2024. If we take the literal meaning of the word, ‘sar’ implies ‘year’ and lo implies ‘new’. The families come together, attend the festivities in the monasteries, offer heartfelt prayers and ask for a prosperous year ahead. It is prominently celebrated in the Himalayan region in India where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced. The Ladakh monasteries, which are otherwise silent and peaceful, will welcome the new lunar year with traditional dances, melodious music, ancestral rituals and more!
Where is the Losar Festival Celebrated?
The first and foremost thing to note is that Losar Festival 2024 is important to the Tibetan Buddhist community. So, wherever these Tibetan Buddhism followers are, the festival will be celebrated with vigour and enthusiasm. They will leave no stone unturned to make the few days as memorable as possible.
In India, Losar is celebrated grandly in the Ladakh Monasteries and the surrounding regions. The monks decorate the holy places of knowledge, the Monasteries, with colourful religious banners, there will be glorious street lights, and people sing spiritual songs and engage in congratulating each other for embracing life in a positive way. Apart from the Leh-Ladakh region, Losar festival 2024 will also be celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Darjeeling.
History of Losar
The practice of celebrating Losar was once mainly focused on welcoming a new harvest season and thanking the Gods for blessing everyone with good food and life. It was in the 17th Century when the 9th Tibetan King Pude Gungyal introduced the Losar festival to the Tibetan communities. The Tibetan Buddhists celebrate the Bon Festival which is their indigenous way of welcoming a new year with prayers, celebrations, and burning incense sticks in large numbers. They believed that the practice drives away evil and negative energy and their prayers will invite devotional presence into their houses.
King Pude Gungyal brought together the Bon and Losar festivals. Along with welcoming the new Lunar Year, people also started anticipating the spring season, thanking nature for a good harvest and treating crops as a part of the family.
The preparations to welcome the Lunar New Year start way before the actual date of the Losar Festival. You will know more about this as you keep reading this blog.
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Significance of the Tibetan New Year Celebrations
The main reason to celebrate the Losar Festival 2024 is to forget the past and welcome a future that can decide which path your life will take. This is the time when people drive away the negativities from their lives – both from the house and their minds. A complete cleansing will remove whatever evil energies are lingering in their surroundings. By offering prayers and indulging in traditional rituals, they are tuning their mind to think positively and also attracting wealth and success into their houses. There is no place for sorrow or worries.
Moreover, the Losar Festival 2024 is all about thanking Mother Nature for being so selfless and offering food and harvest in abundance. Seeing how the Losar Festival always falls at the end of the winter season, people come together to cordially invite the glorious spring season. They are looking forward to the fresh burst of greenery that the season gets along with it. It won’t be wrong to say that the Losar Festival 2024 will be offering the people of the Himalayan region a chance to get closer to nature.
Important Dates of the Losar Festival 2024
Losar Festival 2024 is not just a one-day event where people gather, enjoy, and disperse. In regions like Ladakh and other northeastern states, at least 15 days are declared as annual holidays so that people can celebrate Losar Tibetan New Year properly.
This year, Losar Festival 2024 is going to fall on February 10th. So, you can expect the northeast and Ladakh regions to be involved in the festivities till February 25th. However, you must know that the celebrations start two days before the actual dates of the Losar Festival 2024. From February 8th, people will be fully immersed in preparing for the arrival of the Tibetan New Lunar Year. These two days, February 8th and 9th, along with the actual day of Losar, February 10th, are of great importance and can be considered the ‘Big Three’ days of the event.
Let us tell you what happens on each of these days and the significance of the activities.
Three-Day Schedule of the Losar Festival
Lama Losar – Day 1 of the Festival
Lama Losar is going to fall on February 8th during the Losar Festival 2024. This is the day when people of the Tibetan Buddhist communities will start to clean their houses, get rid of any of the old items, and cleanse the prayer rooms. Later, they prepare a special noodle dish called the ‘Gu-Thuk’ and feast on it. People celebrating the festival also go to the monasteries, seek blessings from the lamas (spiritual leader who takes care of the monasteries and leads the monks) and spend some quiet time meditating. They also sing hymns and pray for a good life. The people who visit monasteries will be offered Changkoi which is made out of Chhaang, a Tibetan alcoholic beverage made from rice.
Gyalpo Losar or King’s Losar – Day 2 of the Festival
King’s Losar is considered to be the last day of the previous Tibetan Lunar Calendar. This means that February 9th is the day the 2023 Lunar calendar will come to an end. On this special day, people offer prayers in the monasteries, perform traditional rituals and shrug off the worries and tensions of the past. As a token of respect and admiration, they also offer gifts to monks in the monasteries. The monks will also perform cleansing rituals and a ‘deity pooja’ to invoke the blessings of the Gods. One of the most interesting things that will happen on this day is the burning of firecrackers and fire torches at night! People believe that the brightness and elegance of these firecrackers will scare away evil spirits.
Choe Kyong Losar or Losar Festival – Day 3
On the day of the Losar Festival 2024, people in all households will wake up early in the morning and dress up in new attires. Everything that was old in the house will already be discarded on Day – 1. The married women in the house will wake up before sunrise, go to the nearby rivers and fetch their first bucket of water. It is believed that this will bring good luck and happiness into the house. Before they step out to enjoy the festivities, believers will place some water and offerings on their porch or doorstep to attract a good harvest in the 2024 lunar year.
It is important to have a family reunion on this day and enjoy a good dinner together. People also exchange gifts and cook for each other. This will keep the atmosphere in the house lively and positive. It is believed that this happiness will last the entire year. Under any circumstances, people do not cry, whine or think of negative things during the Losar Festival.
The festival will last for a total of 15 days when relatives visit each others’ houses, offer prayers in monasteries, and there is a lot of dance and music, of course!
Main Highlight of Losar Tibetan New Year
The main highlight of Losar Tibetan New Year is the Sand Mandalas. These are extravagant, intricate designs that are made of sand and the detailing is so precise! The monks make these mandalas from different coloured sands and you will find them in all monasteries during Losar Festival 2024. The mandalas signify life and its journey.
How, you say?
The monks take several days to make these mandalas. The mandalas are kept around for 15 days and ceremoniously disintegrated once the festival comes to an end. This signifies the cycle of life – the efforts to bring life to this planet, nourishing it, watching it grow and eventually understanding that all good things come to an end. The purpose is served.
How To Reach Ladakh?
To witness the glory of the Losar Festival 2024, you will have to come to Ladakh. This is where all of the monasteries will actively celebrate the annual festival. This is how you can reach Ladakh.
Taking a flight is one of the best ways to reach Ladakh. The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh. This is about 4 km away from Ladakh and you can easily find taxi services to reach Ladakh. The airport is also well-connected with other cities like Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and more. People travelling from the South can reach Chandigarh first, halt and then take a flight to Leh from here.
While you are in Chandigarh, book your short stay at Treebo Hotels in Chandigarh for a comfortable experience.
There are no direct trains to Leh or Ladakh seeing how these two places are at a higher elevation. You will have to reach Tawi town in Jammu first and then take a taxi or JKSRTC bus to reach Ladakh. The distance between the two places is about 700km and it takes at least 15 hours owing to the rough and challenging roads leading to Ladakh.
Road trips to Ladakh are absolutely stunning and you can enjoy the views of snow-laden mountains while feeling the chilled breeze brush your hair. The best way to reach Ladakh by road would be to reach Delhi first. From here, you can take any of these five spectacular routes.
- Delhi – Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Ladakh
- Delhi – Kinnaur – Kaza – Keylong – Sarchu – Leh – Ladakh
- Delhi – Manali – Sarchu – Leh – Ladakh
- Delhi – Dalhousie – Sar Pass – Keylong – Sarchu – Leh – Ladakh
The Losar Festival 2024 is happening in the month of February when the snow is thick and prominent. You will have to see which of the routes are blocked, permits needed to travel and more before starting your journey.
The Losar Festival 2024 is fascinating, and peaceful and gives you a sense of joy that you will forever cherish. But also remember that February is one of the coldest months in the Ladakh region. Pack some good woollens to combat the chill and also keep some medicines handy for emergency situations. Once you have everything checked and planned, grab your bags and go explore the most vibrant festival of the Tibetan Buddhists!