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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར, Wylie: lo-gsar) is the Tibetan word for "new year". lo[1] holds the semantic field "year, age"; sar[2] holds the semantic field "new, fresh".

Losar is the most important holiday in Tibet, Nepal and Kingdom of Bhutan.[3] Before the Tibetan New Year, Nyi Shu Gu is celebrated on the eve of the last night of the year.

Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer).

The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five day practice of Vajrakilaya. Because the Uyghurs adopted the Chinese calendar, and the Mongols and Tibetans adopted the Uyghur calendar,[4] Losar occurs near or on the same day as the Chinese New Year and the Mongolian New Year, but the traditions of Losar are unique to Tibet, and predates both Indian and Chinese influences.

Originally, ancient celebrations of Losar occurred solely on the winter solstice, and was only moved to coincide with the Chinese and Mongolian New Year by a leader of the Gelug school of Buddhism.[5]

Losar is also celebrated by Yolmo, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, and Bhutia, although different regions in the country have their own respective new year. Losar is also celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists Worldwide.

We all know how New Year’s Eve and New Year are celebrated. Some would also like to know how Tibetans spend their New Year. Fellow Buddhists often ask what could they do, how to celebrate this day, if they are not able to perform the traditional pujas taking many hours. Lama Rinchen will try to answer these questions.

The traditional Tibetan calendar is based on calculations connected with the lunar phases. It is divided into lunar months, thirty days each. Sometimes, depending on the year, some days may double or, on the contrary, be omitted (i.e. in certain months there will be two 5th days, or the 10th day will occur right after the 8th).

It happens that entire months are repeated (for example there were two last months in 2005). Therefore Buddhist feasts and anniversaries are movable. This refers also to Losar, the Tibetan New Year.

It usually falls in February and celebrating it is one of the most important events for the Tibetans. In Tenga Rinpoche’s monastery the preparations for this ceremony start already several weeks in advance.

The puja of Mahakala, the main guardian of Kagyu teachings, begins nine days before the New Year.

The prayers are recited day and night.

All diseases and other suffering, destructive emotions, bad inclinations and deeds, not only of persons participating in the ritual but of all sentient beings, are gathered in one location in order to be destroyed.

The possibility of them harming anyone in the coming year is erased.

The famous Mahakala dances are the culmination point of the puja.

One the day before the last, after a whole-night puja, the monks put on brocade clothes and masks.

They dance from 7 a.m. till late afternoon, with short breaks only.

This ritual is performed to subdue demonic forces which are impossible to be tamed by meditation or mantra recitation.

According to the transmissions, if these rituals were to stop, the released negative forces would bring madness to human minds and the world would immerse in war.

Lamasmeditation and the flames of a giant fire in which the main torma in the shape of a demonic face is burnt at the end, are supposed to cut off all the negative influences from the previous year.

The first day of the New Year is the most festive day for the Tibetans.

Lamas, monks and lay people working for the monastery come to the gompa at sunrise. Entire families arrive.

First, the monks recite prayers for auspiciousness for over half an hour; later each participant approaches the thrones and offers gifts to the Rinpoches and receives blessings.

On this day the Tibetans simply celebrate. They wear neat clothes, some dress in Western style, others wear traditional Tibetan outfits, and visit each other.

They exchange wishes, recall past days sitting at a lavishly set table and move on to the next house. Every door is open. It is also typical to visit the local lamas offering them kathaks and gifts.

Losar, the New Year, celebrations last three days.

It is best to start the New Year with an auspicious activity. If it is not a tsok offering, you can perform another puja or meditation, preparing special offerings.

In our Centre we usually start Losar celebrations with Amitayus (Tib. Tsepame) Buddha empowerment. Tsepame is the embodiment of buddhasactivities augmenting vital forces, life span and all prosperity.

Then, we perform the Milarepa or Amitabha puja. After the ceremonies, there usually is a slide show from pilgrimages or religious ceremonies connected with the Benchen monastery and its lamas.

It is worth remembering that the first month of the year is considered to be a period when the effects of all activities: both positive and negative, are multiplied. Therefore, depending on you possibilities, it is good to devote more time to meditation practice then.


The celebration of Losar predates Buddhism in Tibet and can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist Bön period. In this early Bön tradition, every winter a spiritual ceremony was held, in which people offered large quantities of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and 'protectors' (Tibetan: chos skyong; Sanskrit: dharmapalas).

This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have originated during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet.

The festival is said to have begun when an old woman named Belma introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon.

This festival took place during the flowering of the apricot trees of the Lhokha Yarla Shampo region in autumn, and it may have been the first celebration of what has become the traditional farmers' festival.

It was during this period that the arts of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges were first introduced in Tibet.

The ceremonies which were instituted to celebrate these new capabilities can be recognized as precursors of the Losar festival.

Later when the rudiments of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer's festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year's festival.

Losar is also known as Bal Gyal Lo. Bal is Tibet, Gyal is King, Lo is year. The Tibetan new year has been celebrated since the first King's enthronement celebration. It was started with the first King. That was why it has been known as Bal Gyal Lo.

Tenzin Gyatso (1998: p. 233) frames the importance of consulting the Nechung Oracle for Losar:


Tenzin Wangyal (2002: p.xvii) frames his experience of Tibetan cultural practice of Losar in relation to elemental celebrations and offerings to Nāga (Tibetan: Klu):[6]



The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month.

That is the day before the Tibetan New Year's Eve. On that day the monasteries do a protector deities' puja (a special kind of ritual) and begin preparations for the Losar celebrations.

The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk. It is made of nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains.

Also, dough balls are given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one's dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one's character.

If a person finds chilies in their dough, it means they are talkative. If white-colored ingredients like salt, wool or rice are inside the dough it is considered a good sign. If a person finds coal in the dough it has much the same meaning as finding coal in one's Christmas stocking; it means you have a "black heart".

The last day of the year is a time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year.[7] In the monasteries it is a day of preparations. The finest decorations are put up and elaborate offerings are made called "Lama Losar".

In the early dawn of this day, the monks of Namgyal Monastery offer a 'sacrificial cake' (Tibetan: tor ma)[8] on top of the main temple (Potala in Tibet) to the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors, the glorious goddess Palden Lhamo.

Led by the Dalai Lama, the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas, reincarnated monks or tulku, government officials and dignitaries join the ceremony and offer their contemplative prayers, while the monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the invocation of Palden Lhamo.

After the completion of this ceremony, all assemble in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony. Seated on his or her respective cushions, everyone exchanges the traditional greeting, "Tashi Delek".

In order to wish the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, consecrated 'sacred pills' (Tibetan: ril bu) made out of roasted barley dough are offered to him by the representatives of the three great monasteries, the two Tantric Colleges, etc.

Then entertainers (garma) perform a dance of good wishes. And two senior monks stage a debate on Buddhist philosophy, and conclude their debate with an auspicious recitation composed especially for the event, in which the whole spectrum of Buddhist teaching is first briefly reviewed.

A request is made to the Dalai Lama and to all holders of the doctrine to remain for a long time amongst beings in Samsara (Sanskrit) in order to serve them through their enlightened activities. The official ceremony of the day then concludes with a ceremonial farewell to the His Holiness, who then retires to his palace.

The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyal-po lo-sar) because officially the day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana.

His Holiness and his government exchange greetings with both monastic and lay dignitaries, such as representatives of China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and other foreign visitors.

Then from the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. In many parts of Tibet, Losar is celebrated for fifteen days or more. In India it is celebrated for three days. In other countries celebrations may be as little as one day.

The Losar is also celebrated in Nepal and India as well, where there is a strong concentration of the Buddhist population in the states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal and Ladakh in Kashmir.[9] The Monpa tribe of Tawang and the Memba of the Mechukha valley of Arunachal celebrate Losar. Yet the Memba of Mechukha celebrate Losar one month earlier than the other Losar-celebrating peoples.

Phurbu Thinley states that: Template:Quotation


The Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Losar is celebrated on the first through third days of the first lunar month.

Gregorian Year Year of Rabjung 60-year Cycle Tibetan Year Losar Date*** Gender, Element, and Animal
2008 rab byung 17 lo 22 2135 February 7 Male Earth Mouse/Rat**
2009 rab byung 17 lo 23 2136 February 25 Female Earth Ox[10]
2010 rab byung 17 lo 24 2137 February 14 Male Iron Tiger[11]
2011 rab byung 17 lo 25 2138 March 5 Female Iron Hare/Rabbit**[12]
2012 rab byung 17 lo 26 2139 February 22 Male Water Dragon
2013 rab byung 17 lo 27 2140 February 11 Female Water Snake
2014 rab byung 17 lo 28 2141 March 02 Male Wood Horse
2015 rab byung 17 lo 29 2142 February 18/19 Female Wood Sheep/Goat**
2016 rab byung 17 lo 30 2143 February 8 Male Fire Monkey
2017 rab byung 17 lo 31 2144 January 28 Female Fire Bird/Rooster**
2018 rab byung 17 lo 32 2145 February 15/16 Male Earth Dog
2019 rab byung 17 lo 33 2146 February 5 Female Earth Pig/Boar**
2020 rab byung 17 lo 34 2147 January 25 Male Iron Mouse/Rat**
* Note: Rabjung (Wylie: rab byung) is the name of the 60-year cycle of the Tibetan calendar that started in 1027 CE, and is currently in its 17th cycle.
** Note: These year names have more than one translation into English with differerent terms used by different groups.
*** Note: Losar is celebrated by some international communities at more or less the same time it is celebrated in Asia. For example, for a year when Losar starts on February 1 in Asia time zones, it may be celebrated by some in United States time zones on January 31. Losar celebrations are normally for three days.

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