- by Nance
- Last Updated: 2018-10-18
The Butter Lamp Festival is a beautiful tradition that commemorates all of Buddha’s miracles. It falls on the full moon day and can be compared to the western New Year. On the 15th of the first month in Tibetan Calendar, it was held by Tsong Khapa for the purpose of celebrating the victory of Sakyamuni Buddha over his opponents in a religious debate. On the daytime, local Tibetans will visit monasteries like Jokhang Temple. They will burn incenses and pray to Buddha there. It’s more of a party at night. The lamas and craftsmen made butter sculptures with different characters like gods, flowers, animals etc. Then, they will display these butter sculptures on the shelves, and lit them at night. With thousands of burning lights, they form a wonderful scene of meditation or hypnosis. Some Tibetans even use a series of stories to make lanterns and tell us the ancient Tibetan legends. The festival is probably the highlight of Tibetans, and the streets are filled with people dancing, singing and celebrating. There's light everywhere from the butter sculptures and lamps. You will feel a happy atmosphere there.
The history of the festival
Making of butter sculptures during the Butter Lamp Festival have been a tradition for one thousand years. The festival celebrates Shakyamuni’s victory in a debate in Sravasti India, which proved the intellect and power of Buddha. It's also a way of commemorating his wisdom and victory. During that time, Tsong Khapa lit a lot of lights to commemorate the comfortable win. Soon after, tens of thousands of monks started coming together to celebrate it. However, today the count is less than that. Earlier, the festival also became a time for question and answers with the highest-ranking monks. The Dalai Lamas would head to Lhasa, Jokhang Temple but now the way of things has changed. The event is now carried out in Dharamsala where Dalai Lama lives. For the local Tibetans, it has become a time for being merry and celebrating festivities.
The tradition of making butter sculptures with yak or vegetable oils has facts associated with it. The Tibetans and Buddhist consider light as an essential part of meditation and tantras. A lot of lights together can be beneficial towards achieving focus of mind. When burned, the butter lamps provide with a very smokey light. This smoky light is superbly mesmerizing.
What happens in celebrations today
The colorful and intricately designed ‘Tormas' is the center of attention in this festival. Barkhor Street, located in the capital of Tibet – Lhasa City, is an interesting and breathtaking sight to see. To gauge the full experience of this event, it’s best to head straight here. The sculptures telling the stories of ancient times and are displayed beautifully throughout the city. The butter lanterns are set up on two to three storied towers and brighten up the whole city till morning. The night becomes warm because of all the light. The ‘Tormas’ tell the stories of their ancestors and many characters from these stories are represented through them. Barkhor Street and it’s square become a grand exhibition for the Tormas. When some of the sculptures are put on fire, it is so mesmerizing that it becomes a sight to get lost in. The warm glow emanating from the lighted sculptures and lamps. An all-around atmosphere of happiness and togetherness bring this event to an end every year.
This grand festival is a climax to a month-long preparation made by the Tibetans. It basically marks an end to the Lunar festival. No better words can describe the feeling of being there unless you're there.
Related Articles & Posts
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival
Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the greatest annual event in northern Tibet. During festival, you can enjoy an attire feast, taste delicious Tibetan food, and enjoy singing and dancing. ...
Saga Dawa Festival celebrated at Mt Kailash
Saga Dawa Festival is usually celebrated at Mt Kailash. The famous Tarboche Flagpole, a huge pole that lies on the Kailash Kora route, would be replaced with new prayer flags and raised up again. Local Tibetans circumambulated the Tarboche Flagpole in clockwise direction to welcome the newly rising ...
Saga Dawa Festival
The Saga Dawa Festival is considered highly significant in Tibet. It's celebrated during the fourth month of the Tibetan Calendar, for remembering the birthday, enlightenment, and death of Sakyamuni. ...
Tibetan Festivals Calendar of 2018
We list the 2018 calendar of Tibetan festivals. Losar Festival, Saga Dawa Festival, Gyantse Horse Racing Festival, Shoton Festival, etc. Let’s see what you can meet when traveling in Tibet in 2018. ...
Tibetan Shoton Festival
This post introduces one of the most important festivals in Tibet, the Shoton Festival, including the history, venue, and what you can expect during it, help travelers explore Tibetan culture and Buddhism. ...
Losar Festival - Tibetan New Year
Tibetan New Year, called as “Losar” as well, is the most important festival for Tibetan people. Where does it come from? When is Losar? What activities are there during Losar Festival? How do Tibetan people celebrate for Losar? Check this post and find the answer. ...
Gyantse Horse Racing Festival
Located in the upstream of Nyangqu River, a tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Gyantse is a Historical and cultural city of over one thousand years history. The Horse Racing Festival held in this ancient land is a great chance to enjoy the beautiful landscape there. ...
Nyingchi Peach Flower Festival – Smile with Your Lover in Blooming Flower Bush
With the lowest elevation in Tibet, Nyingchi has the same stunning scenery as Switzerland. Especially in March – April, the peach flowers are blooming in the mountain. Do you want a journey with your lover to the most romantic place in Tibet? ...
Damgxung Horse Racing Festival
Introduce the Horse Racing Festival in Damgxung, including the name, venue, activities, and opening time in 2017, help travelers know more about Tibetan culture and plan a Tibet tour to attend the festival in person. ...
Ganden Thangka Showing Festival
As one of the top 3 monasteries in Lhasa, Ganden Monastery was founded by Tsongkhapa who is a great master and the founder of Gelug sect in Tibetan Buddhism. Ganden Thangka Showing Festival is a traditional feast which attracted thousands of pilgrims and visitors every year. Take a journey of discov ...