Sunday, February 3, 2019

Origin of Losar

On 5th February 2019, it is a New Year occasion for Bhutan, Tibet, Sikkim, Lhadak and many other Himalayan regions. Buddhist people will be celebrate LOSAR (New Year). 

Around the world, wherever there are Bhutanese, Tibetan, Sikkimese and other Buddhist friends from Himalaya region, LOSAR will be observed with great festivity. LOSAR therefore a part of our great culture.

So apart of feasting, we should also know the origin of this important festival and why it is celebrated?

The word Losar literally means "new year". It is derived from two Tibetan words, "lo" meaning year and "sar" meaning new. We mark this occasion to get rid of the bad evil spirits from our  homes and lives that are lurking around and enter the new year of happiness and prosperity. 

In Bhutan, it is two days national holiday to celebrate the Losar. In olden days new year begins based on regions in Bhutan. viz: Thimphu, Punakha, Wangduephording and Trongsa begins new year after Nyinlo, Paro and Ha after Lomba and Eastern Bhutan after Chunyinpi losar (Traditional day of offering). 

As new year need to begin with first day of first lunar month, it was later adopted to this day. 

The origin of Losar can be taken back even before the Buddhism religion was established in Tibet. In the early pre-Buddhist period, the Tibetans followed the Bon religion. 

During these Bon celebrations, a spiritual custom was followed by the people in the winter season. They burned incense in large quantities to please the local spirits, deities and protectors. Eventually with the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, the older ceremony of Bon was incorporated into the Buddhist tradition, thereby becoming the Buddhist Losar festival. 

This religious custom became an annual Buddhist festive occasion during the reign of the ninth king of Tibet, Pude Gungyal. 

Interestingly, this festival is known to have started when an old woman named Belma introduced the method of measuring time based on the phases of the moon. To add on, this festival was held during the flowering of the apricot trees in autumn in the Lhokha Yarla Shampo region. 

It is also believed to be the first celebration as a traditional farmers's festival. Also, during this period, the art of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges were introduced in Tibet. These ceremonies can be related to be the precursors of the Losar festival. 

Later when the rudiments of the science of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer's festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year's festival. 

Losar is also referred to as Bal Gyal Lo, where "bal" means Tibet; "gyal" means king and "lo" means year. The Tibetan New Year is called Bal Gyal Lo since it was first celebrated after the enthronement of the first king. 

The 1st day of Lunar calendar is also called the Gyalpoi losar. It is a day to commemorate the conquest by a Mongolian King Gyalpo Tenzin Chhogyal, popularly known as Bushkhang, over Russian provinces, east Tibet, and other local provinces. 

In Bhutan, the losar became popular only after 1960s under the influence of many Tibetans, who came to Bhutan during China's cultural revolution in late 1950s. 

Today, different rituals and customs are followed to celebrate the Losar festival. People dress in new clothes and head off to monasteries to offer prayers to the Lord. 

People heavily exchange greetings and wish good luck. 

So let me wish LOSAR TASHI DELEK AND HAPPY LOSAR TO ALL Buddhist communities throughout the world.

Please avoid consumption of animal flesh as 1st lunar month is also Holy month. The negativity multiplies by millions. Cultivate compassion towards animals, birds and fish. Allow them to live a life while celebrating your LOSAR. 

Remember, LOSAR doesn't mean eating of different varieties of animals.