Shoton Festival, with a long history, is one of the Tibetan traditional festivals. “Sho” means yogurt in Tibetan and “ton” means banquet. Shoton Festival literally means day of drinking yogurt. Afterwards, performance Tibet opera has become the main part of activities in the Festival, so it’s also famed as Tibetan Opera Festival.
Before 17th century, Shoton Festival is solely a religious activity. Conformed to the doctrines of Buddhism in that period, there were tens of days that monks were forbidden to leave their monasteries. They practised till the ban was lift. In the day, when they were allowed to leave their monasteries and get down from the mountains, secular people would prepare yogurt to feast them. That is the original of Shoton. In the middle of 17th century, Tibetan opera was added, and Shoton Festival was formed as it’s today. However, religious activities and entertainments were held only inside and outside of the monastery. In Lhasa, the grand ritual of dispbaying a huge painting of Buddha takes place is Drepung Monastery, which marks the begining of the Festival. Earlier in 18th century, Norbulinka was built and became the summer palace of Dalai Lama. From then on, celebrating activities of Shoton Festival had been moved there, and ordinary Tibetans had been permitted to enter and watch Tibetan operas, which gradually became a fixed ritual.
Horse Race & Archery Festival
Horse race and archery competition are favored sports of Tibetans, which has been popularized in large areas of agriculture and pasture. It has been a fixed festival for five hundred years, originated from Gyantse area. As Gyantse King Raodan Gongsang pa in his reign, he resumed the memorial ritual for his grandfather from April 10th to 27th and gave a decree of beginning recreation from April 28th. Later in the year of 1447, Tashi Raodan Pa began his reign. A recreation activity of archery on a horse back was added. And the Gyantse Dhama Festival was officially formed (horse racing and archery). In the middle of 17th century, religious ceremony became symbolic and contest of archery on horseback was the important part of the Festival, which often lasted three days. From 15th century, archery on horseback has spread over the areas, of Lhasa, Qiangtang, Gongbu. In Lhasa, it started after the Grand Summon ceremony at the beginning of the new year, which would last four days. Now the most famous one is horse race festival in Damshung in Northern Tibet which starts from the end of July to early August. The most famous is Dangmu jiren in Qiangtang grasslands, which lasts five to seven days. Like Gyantse Dhama Festival, it began with a simple religious ritual, then examining horses and followed by a contest of horse race and archery. People of the area in majority take advantage of the festival to do barter business, which composes an important part of the festival.
Saga Dawa Festival
The fourth month of Tibetan calendar is called Saga Dawa festival. As legend depics, Lord Sakyamuni was born in Lumbini in the Saga Dawa month of iron monkey year of Tibetan calendar. On the fifteenth day of Saga Dawa month, Lord Sakyamuni facing east meditated on straw under a giant bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, subdued evil ghosts at nightfall and acquired enlightenment in dawn. On day fifteen of Saga Dawa month of iron dragon year, Lord Sakyamuni parinirvana in Kushinagar city. When Lord Sakyamuni became the Buddha, the final words in Deer park of Benares city was that suffering is an inherent part of existence; that the origin of suffering is ignorance and the main symptoms of that ignorance are attachment and craving; that attachment and craving can be ceased; and that following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the cessation of attachment and craving and therefore suffering. Tibetan folk takes this month as great creator, so massive people and monks will hold religious activities in the month. To follow this tradition, most people, not to mention monks are refrained from killing and are pious to prayer a half month ahead of Saga Dawa. In Johkang Temple, Ramoche Monastery and Paba Lakang of Potala Palace, thousands of offerings are respectively put, and all main buddha sculptures are coated with gold powder and offered butter lamps. On the morning of the fifteenth day, the first thing of pilgrims to do is to present hadas and fill lamp oil to Buddha Sakyamuni, and three compassionate Buddha of Johkang Temple and Ramoche Monastery. Later, they will follow the ring of prayer. They will walk by Chakpori, Norbulinka, Dyikyi Linka and Potala Palace before arriving at the dragon’s pool in the noon. Pilgrims practise prayer during the way while burning incense on the mani stones passed by. They follow traditions and give donation to beggars. Pilgrims who have carried tea and wine will take yak skin boat to enjoy boating in the noon. Langmas will perform singing and dancing to increase the happy atmosphere. After boating, pilgrims continue to follow their prayer route.
Saga Dawa Festival
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I would be interrested to join a Lhasa to Kathmandu tour in November (26th novembre). Do you have other tourists on this tour and what would be the price of it for one or two person?
Dear Mr. Si***,
Thanks very much for your inquiry. We currently have one departure date on 26th November for Lhasa to Kathmandu group tour, but there is no person joining in at present. If you are two persons together, we are able to open this tour for you. If you are only one person, here we suggest that you can join our 8 days Tibet Mt. Everest group tour, the major scenic spots of this tour are almost the same as the Lhasa to Kathmandu tour, the difference is that you need to get back to Lhasa and fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu. I will send detailed itinerary to your email, please check it. Best regards.
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