Losar is one of the main festivals in Nepal. The festival is celebrated in Buddhist religious follower communities like Tamang, Sherpa, Gurung, and Thakali. who live in the hilly and mountainous region. The literal meaning of Losar is New Year and follows the cycle of 12 years called Lohokor. Barga (Lo)is the special name given to each year and represented by different animals with its reputed attributes like mouse, cow, tiger, cat, garuda, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog, and deer. The cycle of animals is arranged in a single circle printed on paper or cloth. In Nepal when there was no calendar, the 12 rotation system was used to calculate peoples’ ages.
On the very day of the festival, the people visit the monasteries and stupas to pray, worship, and have blessings from the monks for happiness and wellbeing. The Stupas, monasteries, houses rooftop, and mountain top are decorated with new colorful prayer flags and colorful decorative items to bring peace and harmony to the nation. The ethnic people clad in their traditional costumes perform their cultural singing and dancing welcoming the New Year with feasts and family gatherings. On the occasion of Losar, the Government of Nepal announces public holidays. So, the festival is celebrated in the full swing across the country.
Types of Losar in Nepal
Tamu Losar is celebrated by the Gurungs community living in the laps of the Mountain Dhaulagiri and Mountain Annapurna. Gurungs are the indigenous people from Nepal and called Tamu, another name of Gurungs. Gurungs are famous in the Gorkha army for their bravery in the Ist World War and the 2nd World War. They are trusted, obedient and disciplined soldiers.
According to our Calendar, every year,15 Poush is the day to celebrate Tamu Loshar whereas, in the English calendar, it falls in December/January. The date signifies the end of the shorter days and the start of the longer days bringing warmness and charm.
On the eve of the festival, the lama, the spiritual teacher, establishes the statue of Buddha at every house and burn incense and commence the new year. Sel roti ( Rice circle bread), Achar ( Pickle), Meat, homemade rice Beer, and Wine are served. People gather in the courtyard to celebrate the festival in the rural areas whereas in cities people gather in a commonplace and parade around the cities rejoicing cultural procession to mark the New Year.
Sonam Losar is celebrated by the Tamangs community dwelling in the central highlands of Nepal as well as around Kathmandu Valley. Tamangs are the indigenous people from Nepal. They have their own culture and dialects which distinguish them from other ethnic groups. Tamang means Horse Traders.
Sonam Losar falls on the first new moon of the month Magh in Nepali Calendar, somewhere in early January to mid-February. So, the date varies in every Sonam Loshar. It is celebrated for 15 days although the first three days have the main celebrations.
The Tamangs clean and decorate their house welcoming the new year and visit the monasteries and stupas in their traditional costumes. Buddhist monasteries perform masked dances and rituals to drive away from the negative forces and bring positive for the family and the nation.
In villages, Tamangs decorate their doors and windows with colorful paper and cloth and sweep their houses sweeping all the misfortunes and bringing Good Luck, Long Life, and Happiness. Pork, duck, chicken, and a sweet dessert with rice beer, and wine are served in family gatherings as in cities people gather in a commonplace and go around the cities rejoicing cultural procession.
Gyalpo Losar is celebrated by the Sherpa community living in the Himalayan region in Nepal. They have distinct dialects and cultures. They are world-famous mountain climbers and the first ones to scale Mount Everest in Nepal, the highest mountain in the world. People from Tamang, Bhutia, and Yolmo too celebrate this festive.
It is the celebration of Tibetan New Year falls that in February in English Calender. It is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. The day of Loshar begins on the 29th day of the 12th-month calendar. It is celebrated typically for almost two weeks. Preparation of festive begins by making special Sherpa snack Khapse, a deep-fried pastry that is commonly eaten during the festive.
In ancient times, people went to the local spring to perform rituals of gratitude. Offerings were made to the Nagas, or water spirits, who activated the water element in the area, and smoke offerings were made to the local spirits associated with the natural world. These rituals took place for an entire month leading up to New Year's Day.
The houses are cleaned, especially the kitchen has to be cleaned properly because it is a place where the family prepares the food. Chimneys are also cleaned from the inside. Some special dishes are cooked for the new year ceremony. One of the dishes is a soup served with dumplings called Guthuk. The soup is made from meat, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, Yak cheese, peas, green peppers, vermicelli, and radishes. Sometimes, different hidden items are used in fillings for the dumplings. The items are chilies, wood, paper, and pebbles. People comment on the nature (character) of the person on the findings inside his/her dumplings. If one finds wood means he has a wooden heart, etc. This is done for enjoyment.
During the festival, people recall the struggle between the good and the evil in their ceremonial dance and Lama chants mantras and passes the fire torches through the crowds. People perform the traditional dance battle encounter between the king and the deer and amuse the spectators.
The date of the three Losars varies but the outcome is the same. It is a festival of a reunion of the families, relatives, and friends to unite together for partying, merrymaking, exchanging gifts and greetings. So, the people could revitalize to start fresh with zeal for more progress and harmony in terms of spiritual, mental, and physical.
We can hike to Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Sanctuary, Tamang Heritage Trek, or Manaslu trek to explore and experience the Tamang, Sherpa, Gurung, and Thakali culture that celebrate the Losar festival in Nepal.