Losar Festivals

This New Year festival has an interesting history. In the 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Balti forces during winter. He was advised that any expedition before the New Year would be in auspicious.
Winter is a fascinating time to be in Ladakh. Losar -this spectacular festival celebrates the Ladakhi/Tibetan new year. Festivities last for 2 weeks during December or January,depending on the Lunar calander . Witness ancient rituals,the stage fights between good & evil, chanting and passing through the crowds with fire torches. The dance of the Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King & his ministers. Music,dancing and merry-making .

Losar is the most important of all the socio-religious events of Ladakh. Preparations for the event start quite early, immediately after the harvesting season is over, when people start stocking provisions for the occasion: sheep and goats for the customary feasts as well as grain for brewing 'Chang,' the local barley beer. New clothes and jewelry are also made for wearing on the New Year Day.

The actual New Year celebrations begin with Namchot, a socio-religious event celebrated to observe the birthday and the Buddha-hood of Tsongkha-pa, the Tibetan saint-scholar and founder of the Geluk-pa school of Tibetan Buddhism in the 14th century. From this auspicious day the New Year celebrations continue through the festival of Losar and conclude with that of Leh Dosmoche, the great winter festival held approximately two weeks after Losar. During Namchot it is customary in every home to prepare various varieties of the traditional Ladakhi 'thukpa,' a vegetable and mutton noodle soup, and serve it to visiting friends and relatives.

The New Year day itself starts with making offerings at the shrines of personal gods and clan ancestors and with greetings to family elders, relatives and friends. Afterwards, elders of the family receive customary visitors who come to greet them with presents and 'Khatak,' a ceremonial scarf. Leh and its adjoining villages wear a carnival look as people come out in their colorful best. It is customary for the Muslims and Christians in Leh to call on their Buddhist friends carrying presents and Khatak to greet them on the occasion.

The New Year festivities conclude with the 'Metho' ceremony, when a processions of people carrying flaming torches pass through the bazaars and lanes, chanting prayers to chase away evil spirits and hungry ghosts believed to have accumulate during the year as a result of bad Karma (deeds). An interesting display of fire and light is created by the whirling of the flaming torches which are then thrown away in a gesture to bid farewell to the old year and to welcome the new.

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