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Chokhor Duchen Festival

  • Last Updated: 2021-09-06

Chokhor Duchen falls on June 4th of each year in the Tibetan calendar. Chokhor means “Dharma chakra” and “Duchen” means “great occasion” in Tibetan. It's considered as one of the four holy days in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar. It is also known as the "Rotating Dharma Festival" to commemorate the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni's first teaching of Dharma. For seven weeks after enlightenment, the Buddha did not teach. After that, Indra and Brahma dedicated a Dharma chakra and a conch shell and invited Shakyamuni to teach. After Buddha Shakyamuni accepted the invitation, he turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time at Sarnath by teaching on the four noble truths, which is the truth about suffering (dukkha), the truth about the cause of suffering (samudaya), the truth about the end of suffering (nirhodha), and the truth of the road that frees us from suffering (manga).

In order to commemorate this day, Tibet people dressed in new clothes and brought food, rushed to various monasteries in the mountains near Lhasa to worship the Buddha, and chant the sutras. After lighting the lights, they went to the wild to eat, sing, and dance. They did not return to the city until sunset.

During the festival, most Tibetan people would have kora(circumambulation) around the mountains. It is said that fairies will go to the mountains to watch the world on this day. If people can go around the mountains and burn incense, present offerings, and hang sutras, their families will be prosperous as the elderly will live longer and the children will become smart and capable. People walking around the mountains need to achieve two must do and three cannot do: do believe in Dolma (a goddess worshipped by Tibetans) with one-hearted faith and be kind and helpful but do not sigh, curse or pick flowers, otherwise what people pray for cannot be achieved.

Buddha image upfolding ceremony
Buddha image unfolding ceremony

Besides, from June 1st to July 15th in the Tibetan calendar, it was time for the lamas to concentrate on the practice. At this time, lamas were absolutely prohibited from leaving the temple. But on June 3rd, there're Buddha image unfolding ceremonies at Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery. People from various religions would come to watch the ceremony, then put on masks and dress up as other characters to celebrate the event. People wore gorgeous costumes, sang and held horse racing, archery, wrestling, and other cultural and sports activities. After a certain period of evolution, people celebrate on June 4 as a festival. That's the day when Sakyamuni dictated the "Four Noble Truths". On this day, you can see Tibetan people worshiping Buddha, chanting sutras, lighting lamps, etc. The religious atmosphere is very strong.

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