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Tibetan Festivals: Ongkor Festival (Bumper Harvest Festival)

The Ongkor Festival is an old festival in farming areas of Tibet. "Ongkor" in Tibetan means "surrounding the farmland." The festival is held in each August according to Tibetan calendar when all crops are waiting for harvest. Ma- jor activities include horse racing, shooting, singing and dancing, Tibetan Opera, stone holding and wrestling. The "Ongkor" not only shows people's wish for a good harvest, but also a good time for them to rest. Since crops ripen in different times, the festival is held accordingly. The Ongkor Festival originated in the valley at the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River. The initial form is offering sacrifices to gods by natural villages to pray for a good harvest.

Zetang in Shannan Region holds the Ongkor Festival in mid-summer. Each family sends out a representative, mostly woman, to form a 100-member team. They are dressed in grand Tibetan robes, wear their gold and silver jewels, carry dou (a measure for grain) and scripture book showing a good harvest on their back and hold colorful arrows. Under the leadership of a revered man and accompanied by the sounds of ritual trumpets and drums, they move round the farmland outside the village, shouting: "Yangguxiu! Yangguxiu!" (Meaning, "Come back, the soul of the earth!") The old villagers will burn mulberries on the way the Ongkor team must pass to worship gods.

The Ongkor Festival lasts three days, which entertain not only gods but also common human beings. Farmers are plunged into a carnival at these days.

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