Losar: the Festival of highlander in Nepal

Updated on April 23, 2024

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 hilly and mountainous regions. The literal meaning of Losar is New Year and follows the cycle of 12 years called Lohokor. Barga (Lo)is the unique name given to each year and represented by different animals with 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, the 12-rotation system was used to calculate peoples' ages without a calendar.

On the day of the festival, the people visit the monasteries and stupas to pray, worship, and have blessings from the monks for happiness and well-being. The Stupas, monasteries, houses, rooftops, and mountain tops are decorated with new colorful prayer flags and colorful decorative items to bring peace and harmony to the nation. The ethnic people in 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 full swing across the country.

Types of Losar in Nepal

Tamu Losar:-

Tamu Losar is celebrated by the Gurung community living in the laps of the Mountains Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Gurungs are indigenous people from Nepal, and they are called Tamu, another name for Gurungs. Gurungs are famous in the Gorkha army for their bravery in the First and Second World Wars. They are trusted, obedient, and disciplined soldiers.

According to our Calendar,15 Poush is the day to celebrate Tamu Loshar every year, whereas in the English calendar, it falls in December/January. Therefore, the date signifies the end of the shorter days and the start of the longer days, bringing warmth and charm.

On the eve of the festival, the Lamaa, the spiritual teacher, establishes the statue of Buddha at every house, burns incense and commences 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 rural areas. In contrast, in cities, people gather in a commonplace and parade around the towns, rejoicing in cultural procession to mark the New Year.

Sonam Loshar:-

The Tamangs community-dwelling celebrates Sonam Losar in the central highlands of Nepal and around Kathmandu Valley. Tamangs are 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 Magh in the Nepali Calendar, from 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 visiting the monasteries and stupas in traditional costumes. In addition, Buddhist monasteries perform masked dances and rituals to drive away from the opposing forces and bring positivity to 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 towns rejoicing cultural procession.

Gyalpo Losar:-

Gyalpo Losar is celebrated by the Sherpa community living in the Himalayan region of 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 also celebrate this festive occasion.

The Tibetan New Year is celebrated in February in the English Calendar. The calendar comprises twelve lunar months, and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. The day of Loshar starts on the 29th day of the 12th month calendar. It is typically celebrated for almost two weeks. Preparation for the festive season begins by making a special Sherpa snack, Khapse, a deep-fried pastry commonly eaten during the positive.

In ancient times, people went to the local spring to perform rituals of gratitude. For example, 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 before New Year's Day.

The houses are cleaned, especially the kitchen, which has to be appropriately cleaned because it is a place where the family prepares the food. Chimneys are also cleaned from the inside. Some unique dishes are cooked for the New Year's 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 things are chilies, wood, paper, and pebbles. People comment on the nature (character) of the person on the findings inside their dumplings. If one finds wood, it means he has a wooden heart, etc. This is done for enjoyment.

During the festival, people recall the struggle between good and evil in their ceremonial dance, and Lamaa chants mantras and passes fire torches through the crowds. In addition, 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 families, relatives, and friends reuniting for partying, merrymaking, and 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 CampAnnapurna Sanctuary, Tamang Heritage Trek, or Manaslu trek to explore and experience the Tamang, Sherpa, Gurung, and Thakali cultures that celebrate the Losar festival in Nepal.

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