In Tibetan, Losar means ‘New Year’. It is also one of the major festivals of Arunachal Pradesh celebrated by tribes such as the Membas, Monpas, Shertukpens, Khambas and Nahs following the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. Unlike the usual New Year celebrations that center around a single day, Losar is a 15 day long affair celebrated in the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar known as ‘Dawa Dangpo’ and is marked with age-old ceremonies that has changed little over the years. The dates tend to change every year and so it can fall anytime in the months of November, December, January, February and sometimes March.
New Year’s Eve
Tongjin is the last day of the twelfth month before Losar begins. Homes are spruced up and new household items bought, neighbourhoods are also given a thorough cleaning. Family chapels are decorated and tributes offered to the deities. Every nook of the house is marked with dots made of flour paste. Evenings are spent with family members indulging in Khabseys, Chang and Jabez and by playing sho (an indigenous game of dice) waiting for the dawn to break. With the first sign of the new dawn, they offer prayers to the almighty Buddha for peace and well-being of the people by burning Shang outside their houses.
According to the Tibetan Calendar, this is the year of ‘Monkey Fire’. Membas celebrate Losar a month earlier than Monpas and Shertukpens. This year, it was observed on 9th January. ‘We call it Sonam Losar or Dawa Chu Nyi Pa Losar. Dawa means Month and Chu Nyi Pa means 12th month of the year,’ shared Sange Sona, a Memba from Mechukha subdivision of West Siang district.
Celebrating the Tibetan Way
The first three days of the festival are considered to be the most important. The first day of Losar is dedicated to teachers and gurus. On this
day, people offer their love, respect and greetings to elders, teachers and gurus like the Rinpoches. The second day is dedicated to leaders and rulers. People visit them to convey their good wishes. The third day is dedicated to various guardian deities. People visit monasteries, offer prayers while hoisting flags in their houses and holy places. The eighth and tenth days are believed to be of Jetsun Droima and Guru Padmasambhava. A special prayer is offered in the chapels.
Now, no festival is complete without traditional delicacies; cuisines like Momos, Thingduk, Khabsey, Pudo, Guiduk, Jabez and Chang are offered to everyone. During Losar, visitors are regarded as ‘Messengers of God’. ‘We believe that people who come visiting during Losar are messengers of gods who will bring good luck to us,’ says Sange.
Although Losar is spent visiting families and relatives and offering prayers, Chib Losar is celebrated with the whole community in a bigger way at Sambenchoning Gompa in Mechukha. It is observed on the 15th day of the festival, the day of the full moon. Sange goes on to add that Chib Losar is a new concept which was not practiced before. She adds, ‘Losar is celebrated in a smaller intimate manner with our families, so Chib Losar was conceptualized to involve the whole community to celebrate together in a bigger way’. Monpas and Shertukpens are looking forward to their share of celebrations from the 9th of this month.
Words: Appu Gapak