Losar or the New Year festival was a quieter affair than usual in Dharamshala in 2012. Missing was the general exuberance. If there was any celebration, it was not public. Tibetans, urged by their Prime Minister, welcomed this Water Dragon year with prayers for those who have died in Tibet since March 2011 protesting Chinese rule. The past year has seen two dozen self-immolations in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama led ritualistic prayers on the first day (Lama Losar). Drums were beaten, horns blown and offerings were made to the Buddhist deity Palden Lhamo among Buddhist chants on the terrace of the main temple.
Tibetans also tied prayer flags or Lungta on high poles behind the residence of the Dalai Lama on the third day. It is believed that these flags printed in five colours representing the five elements, earth, sky, air, water and fire, spread prayers on wind.
Losar has been around in one form or another since pre-Buddhist times. Buddhism brought its own rituals and made the commemoration a formal event. Celebrations usually carry on for over two weeks but the first three days are the most important.
Losar 2013 is on 10-12 February.
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Losar in McLeod, 2012.