Losar / Monlam
LOSAR is the Tibetan New Year festival and is celebrated during the two weeks of the first month of the lunar new year. While Losar spans about two weeks, the main focus is on the first three days and involves prayer offerings and ritual activities for the monks. A central aspect is the invocation of continued protection by the supreme protector Palden Lhamo who is the main protector of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, and the government of Tibet. Following these activities, the monks and the Tibetan people start to enjoy and celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
MONLAM is the Great Prayer Festival and is held during the second and third weeks of the first month of the lunar new year. This celebration was inaugurated by Tsongkapa (Je Rinpoche) as a way to gather all the monks together and re-affirm their vows and commitment to Tibetan Buddhism. During Monlam, while the monks are gathered to renew their commitment, examinations are held for the award of the highest degree in Buddhist philosophy. This is the 'Geshe' degree (roughly equivalent to the western PhD.) and is central to the Gelug order.
Monlam is also a time for the Tibetan people to witness some of the outward demonstrations of the power and rigor of Tibetan Buddhism. These communal activities can include Displaying the Tangka, Butter Tea Ceremony, Maitreya Transportation, Butter Lamp Festival, and Cham dancing. While this website is devoted to Cham dancing, the other major activities of Monlam are introduced in the following pages.