Loshar- the one which is also regarded as the “New Year” in different communities – is mostly celebrated by the Buddhist community in Nepal, India, and Tibet. Buddhism, which is among the largest religious families in the world, honor this day with feasts, family gatherings, and expressing gratitude towards life.
Tibetians are the indigenous group of Buddhists, thereby the exact date is determined by the Tibetian astrologers in Dharmasala, India where the current Dalai Lama, a spiritual and political leader of Tibetian Buddhists lives. It usually falls during the month of January, February, and December due to the effect of the lunar calendar.
It is believed that before the new year actually arrives, bad memories from the old year must be removed. Therefore, houses are cleaned, whitewashed aiming at driving out the evil spirits and negative forces. The cleansing of the house and body as a whole is considered as the new beginning.
Ancient way of Celebrating Loshar
As the new year dawns, people seek to a river, pond, lake, or stream for a ritual drink of water which they assume will ensure good luck eliminating obstacles and consequences in the coming days.
Another way of ensuring good luck is eating rice cooked with butter, garnished with various flavorings. Furthermore, the huge day is commemorated by eating, drinking, and merrymaking.
Modern way of Celebrating Loshar
On the day of Loshar, Buddhist monasteries and stupas in our country such as Swoyambhu, Boudhanath, Namobuddha are fully decorated with prayer flags. People perform their cultural dance and reveal their culture wearing their cultural dresses and costumes. It is celebrated in the same way in India and Tibet also.
Symbols and Customs of Loshar
The person who acts like an acrobat dressing like a beggar, goes from door to door, delivering good luck messages in Loshar. In return, he is taken as a gift from God and often accepted as a god, who came to offer blessings and is pleased with snacks and money.
Guthuk is a special dish prepared for the Loshar festival. It contains omens: a pebble symbolizing a long, healthy life; cayenne pepper: symbolizing a person has a temperamental personality; a piece of charcoal means that the recipient has a black heart. This is all in the form of dumplings, which are later consumed with pleasure.
Mystery Play of Tibet
It is a form of dance, originally performed by a devil-dancing cult to brush off the year-long negative spirits that have been sticking with us. It is accompanied by the blowing of longhorns and the clash of huge cymbals.
This dance is interpreted as the sign of combat of good against the evil.
Buddhist believe that an account of each person’s good and bad deeds are is kept in the form of white and black pebbles. On the day of Judgement, the two lots are weighted to designate an individual’s fate. Hence, people regret the sins that they have committed during the past days and take an oath to display only good conduct in the days to come, hoping to secure an appropriate balance of black and white pebbles.
Types of Loshar
There are basically three different types of Loshar in Nepal: Tamu Loshar, Sonam Loshar, and Gyalpo Loshar. Those people who live in the Mountain area of Nepal with their communities can be seen celebrating it more typically. We can explore their culture in every Trekking, Hiking, and Touring area of Nepal.
1. Tamu Loshar
Tamu Loshar is celebrated by the Gurung community who lives in the laps of Mountain Dhaulagiri and Mountain Annapurna region. Another name for Gurungs is Tamu who are the original people of Nepal. On the day of Tamu Loshar, the lama who is a spiritual leader establishes the statue of Buddha at every house and worships and prays for the joyful and auspicious starting of the New Year.
The major dishes are Sel roti, Khapse (made of bread rice), Achar (Pickle), Meat, and homemade rice beer (Tongba). People gather together and dance in the traditional cultural song “Salaijo and Kauda” in rural areas whereas in urban areas, people gather in the commonplace and roam around cities dancing in their preferred songs.
Talking about the dress, men wear Bhangra, white cloth shirt-liked tied a Kachhad, like a shirt miniskirt. Women as well as children and young people wear maroon velvet Ghalek and Gunyo-cholo, coordinating it with gold and precious ornaments.
2. Sonam Loshar
Sonam Loshar is celebrated by the Tamang community of the Langtang region of Nepal and also around the Kathmandu valley.
Tamangs are the native people of Nepal who have their own culture and languages, unlike other ethnic groups. The meaning of the word Tamang is “Horse Traders”.
On this extra special day, people visit Buddhist monasteries and stupas in their respective cultural dresses. They also put White Tika on their forehead from the elders and take blessings and money from them. Tamangs are famous for their cultural Selo Dance and musical performances. Their traditional instrument or drum is called Damfu, which is very popular.
3. Gyalpo Loshar
Gyalpo Loshar is celebrated by the Sherpa community living in the Eastern Himalayan region in Nepal. Tamang, Thakalis, Bhote communities celebrate this day with great delight as a New Year. Preparation for this festive begins by making special Sherpa snack Khapse (deep-fried bread), with that other side dishes are also made. One of the dishes is the soup served with dumplings called Guthuk. The soup is made from meat, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, Yak Cheese, green peppers, and radishes. They also represent the evil spirits and the struggle between the demons and gods in the form and dance on the local monasteries.
Thus, In this way, Buddhists celebrate this national festival Loshar in a with full of patriotism and nationalistic flavor.
For those who are interested in knowing about and visiting the birthplace of the Lord Buddha- The founder of Buddhism, do check out our list of 8 Best Tourist Attraction of Kapilvastu District so that you know where to go when you visit there.