Losar and Buddhism are kind of synonymous. "Lo" means year and "char" means new. The day – Losar is celebrated as a new year. This festival falls in the month of January, February, and December. Buddhists include Tamang, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, etc. and follow Buddhism. Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are two major places where Losar festival is celebrated with full of joy and happiness. Different types of Losar: Sonam Losar, Tamu Losar, and Gyalpo Losar are celebrated in Nepal due to different communities but the main theme of the celebration is festive of New Year. Touring, Hiking or Trekking to the mountains of Nepal offers you to enjoy the celebrations and explore the cultural diversities.
According to the oriental astrological system, there are 12 Lhos (year signs) – Cat, Mouse, Dog, Tiger, Deer, Sheep, Cow, Bird, Garuda, Serpent, Horse and Monkey. When there was no calendar in ancient times, people use these Lhos to calculate their ages. In this way, people will know their ages as well as celebrate every new year. No sooner, this became a trend with historical, cultural and religious significance.
Sonam Losar (Tamang Losar)
Tamang community of Nepalese highlands celebrates Lochar as a celebration of courage and victory. "Ta" means horses and "mang" means Warriors. That's why the Tamang community celebrates this festival following the ancient cultures and traditions. Monasteries are beautifully painted, decorated and opened for the pilgrims. This Sonam Losar is celebrated on the first full moon of the month that usually falls at the beginning of January to the mid-February of English calendar / Magh month of Nepali calendar. Cleaning, painting and decorating houses are routinely work done during Losar. Special dance "Tamang Selo" is performed. Wearing traditional dresses in the gatherings, feasts, parties, they dance in the music of Damfu (a special musical instrument, drum-type covered with the skin of goat). Blessings are received from the elderly and the monks who do the worshipping and other rituals of Sonam Losar. Cultural processions are nowadays become a trend to display the festivity of Sonam Losar as well as other Losar.
Gurung community especially residing in the laps of Mount Annapurna and Mount Dhaulagiri celebrates Tamu Losar with cheerfulness. On the 15th of Poush month of the Nepali calendar or 30th of December, Tamu Losar is celebrated throughout the country. Special delicacies are prepared on this day of Losar like Khapse (Tibetan bread), Sel roti, Achar (pickle of different kinds), Tongba (home-made beer), Wine, etc. Like other Losar, Gurung also do parties, feasts, assemble in one place and do prayers, worshipping and then celebrations. Like in Tamang community, Gurungs also have special music and dance i.e. "Salaijo" and "Kauda". Specially designed attires with ornaments with precious stones or gold jewelry are worn on this Tamu Losar. Men wear Bhangra which is a white cloth shirt-type dress, across the chest and opens like a bag at the back while women wear Kachhad, like a miniskirt. Ghalek and Gunyo-cholo are other types of dresses. Parades are conducted every year in different parts of Nepal to dedicate their passion for the Tamu Losar celebration. On the other hand, Gurungs are well-known for their bravery as Gurkhas – the fighters throughout the world.
Sherpa community of Himalayas celebrates this Gyalpo Losar. It falls in February celebrated for almost two weeks. Festival preparation starts with painting and decorating houses, gumbas, monasteries and making Khapse. Tamang, Yolmo, and Bhutia also participate in Gyalpo Losar. Since the people of these communities are living near to Tibet region, their lifestyle, cultures, traditions are totally influenced by Tibetan. Lots of similarities can be observed. Gyalpo Losar is celebrated for almost two weeks but the first 3 days are significant. Changkol (a special beverage made from Chyang, Tibetan local beer) is prepared on the first day followed by the grand celebration of Gyalpo Losar on the second day and then the main New Year day is the third day. Feasts with several cuisines are prepared, shared and served in the Sherpa communities on the special Gyalpo Losar day. Gunthunk is a delicious soup made of meat, rice, wheat, yak cheese, potatoes, radishes, and green peppers. A Lakhe dance is performed to show a battle between King and deer.
At a final say for Losar celebration, in whatever styles or ways the celebration is done, the final outcome is the same – prayers for the happiness of family members, then the whole community and the entire nation leading to the world. Lamas (priests) chant the holy prayers from the prayer books, worshipping the Lord Buddha statue. Scented sticks are burned, amazing yummy delicacies are prepared in different ways. Family members, relatives, friends gather once in a year for the celebration of Losar. People are forgetting the ancient time's celebration due to modernization and influence of western cultures but still many youngsters and the elderly are trying their best to preserve the originality of the Losar celebration. Saying "Tashi Delek" is the way of greetings and welcoming each other.
Author: Step On Himalaya
Date: 10th January, 2020