The tranquility of the mountains gives way to an extravaganza of colours, food and festivities during the famous Losar Festival.
The term Losar comes from two words of the Tibetan language, lo which means new and sar which means year. Also known as the Tibetan New Year, the Losar Festival is celebrated magnificently in various states with tribal and Tibetan population, such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. In Himachal Pradesh, it is celebrated in Kinnaur, Lahaul, Spiti and Kangra and in Arunachal Pradesh, it is observed in Tawang, Memba and Mechukha Valley by the Monpa tribes. Yolmo, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, and Bhutia communities residing in different regions of India also indulge in the festivities of Losar.
Marking the beginning of a new year, the festival also stands for agricultural prosperity, much like Baisakhi. The dates of the festival change every year according to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. It can occur on any day between the months of December and March. While the Losar Festival 2017 began on 27th February, Losar Festival 2018 starts on 16th February. The festival goes on for a period of 15 days, but the main festivities are restricted to the first three days.
Losar Day 1: Houses are cleaned thoroughly to ward off any evil spirits from the previous year. A unique delicacy called ghutuk is prepared. Special dough balls are made, stuffed with varied ingredients. Whatever ingredient is found by the person eating it in his dough ball is meant to signify his/her character traits, something which is meant to be taken in jest.
Losar Day 2: Locals pay a visit to the monasteries after carrying out a lively procession on the streets and bazaars called methi. Carrying flamed torches and chanting slogans, this procession moves out of town bidding farewell to the year gone by and evil spirits. People present gifts to the monks while seeking their blessings.
Losar Day 3: This day marks the end of the main celebrations of the Losar Festival. A reunion dinner is held on this day, which usually consists of a kind of cake called kapse and an alcoholic drink called chang, which is consumed to keep warm.
The attraction that is a favourite among tourists however, is the exquisite Chham Dance. Also known as the Dance of Devil, Chham is characterised by elaborate masks, intricate headgear and vibrant costumes donned by the performers. The dance is generally put up before a huge gathering of devout spectators in the courtyards of monasteries on the second day of the Losar Festival. It showcases the story of how the cruel Tibetan king, Langdarma was killed in the 9th century, leading to the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Long horns and clash of huge cymbals go with the act.
15th Day of Losar: The festival draws to a close in the real sense on the 15th day. This day involves one of the most beautiful rituals of the festival, the Butter Lamp Festival. The locals make butter lamps as high as 3-storey buildings on their own during the day. The lamas light the lamps in the evening, each lamp standing for Buddha’s enlightenment. The singing and dancing along with the brilliantly lit lamps is a delight for the eyes.
Must-dos while attending the Losar Festival –
• Guthuk – A noodle and dumping soup eaten during Losar
• Kapse – Sweet and salty deep-fried pastries prepared in various shapes
• Chang/Phye Mar – Locally brewed barley beer, consumed to keep warm
• Actively participate in the Chham dance to enjoy it
• Make use of the opportunity to visit the ancient monasteries when they are at their liveliest
Numerous tour packages are available to help you enjoy the Losar Festival in 2018. You can be an active part of the festival at the following places-
The best way to travel to Leh is by air. Take a flight to the Leh Airport which is well-connected to several cities of India including Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh. From the airport, you can hire a taxi into Leh, to attend the festival with locals.
Don’t miss out on the ancient monasteries, rafting, trekking and yak safari in the snow-clad mountains of Leh while you are here.
By Air: Take a flight to the nearest airport Lilabari (North Lakhimpur) Tezpur Airport, from where it is almost a 2-hour drive to Itanagar.
By Rail: The nearest station is Harmuty, only 33 km from Itanagar.
After attending the Losar Festival in Tawang, make sure that you visit the Tawang Monastery and Madhuri Lake. You cannot miss Bomdila Monastery and Eaglenest Sanctuary.
By Air: Nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport of West Bengal which is 124 Kms away from Gangtok.
By Rail: Located in West Bengal, New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri are the nearest stations to Sikkim, 124 km and 115 km from Gangtok respectively.
Don’t forget to participate in yak-rides, river rafting and bird watching at Kewzing.
By Air: Nearest airport is Bagodgra which is about 95 kilometers from Darjeeling.
By Rail: The nearest railway station in Darjeeling is at New Jalpaiguri which is 62 kilometers from the main town.
You can’t miss the sunrise at Tiger Hill and white-water rafting on Teesta.
By Air: Closest airports are Kullu Manali Airport, Shimla Airport and Gaggal Airport. Taxis and cars provide easy connectivity from here.
By Road: It takes less than 11 hours from Delhi so Delhiites can drive down to Chamba.
By Rail: Pathankot is the nearest station, less than 4 hours away.
Don’t forget about Heli skiing at Hanuman Tibba amidst the white mountains.
The festival is a favorite among the connoisseurs of culture, tradition and festivities. If you want to luxuriate in the rich Buddhist culture, then Losar Festival should definitely be on your bucket list.