Most of Tibet’s religious and cultural festivals are fixed according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, which usually lags a month or two behind the sola/Gregorian calendar and different from the Chinese lunar calendar too. Closely related with religions, Tibetan festivals are always endowed with various legends and stories. Throughout the year, you’ll find that traditional festivals with strong local characteristics are celebrated every month. As long as you travel in Tibet, from eastern Nyingchi to western Ngari, from southern Shanna to northern Nagqu, you’ll experience a totally different culture and custom. In order to help tourists to make an earlier 2018 Tibet travel plan, Tibet4Fun has already worked out the latest Tibet Festival Calendar 2018 for your reference.
|Tibetan Festivals 2018||Sola Calendar||Location||Description|
(Tibetan New Year)
|16 FEB 2018||All over Tibet||Losar, Tibetan New Year, is celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the sola/Gregorian calendar. Losar, Tibetan New Year, is a particularly colourful time to be in Lhasa. Tibetan opera is performed and streets are thronged with Tibetans in their finest cloaks. Prayer ceremonies take place at Jokhang Temple and Nechung Monastery and new year Prayer flags are hung.|
|Tsurphu Monastery Festival
(Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival)
|24 MAY 2018||Tsurphu Monastery||Around 65km west of Lhasa, Tsurphu Monastery【4480m】is the seat of the Karma branch of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism. The Karma Kagyu (or Karmapa) are known as the Black Hats, a title referring to a crown given to the fifth Karmapa by the Chinese emperor Yongle in 1407. It was the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-93), who instigated the concept of reincarnation and the Karmapa lineage has been maintained this way ever since.
Thurphu Monastery has an annual festival around the time of Saga Dawa Festival, on the 9th, 10th and 11th days of the fourth Tibetan month (around May). There is plenty of free-flowing chang (Tibetan barley beer), as well as ritual cham dancing and the unfurling of a great thangka on the platform across the river from Thurphu Monastery.
|Saga Dawa Festival
|29 MAY 2018||Lhasa & Mt Kailash||The full moon (15th day) of the fourth lunar month marks the date of Sakyamuni’s conception, enlightenment and entry into nirvana. Huge members of pilgrims walk Lhasa’s lingkhor circuit and visit Mt Kailash, where the Tarboche prayer pole is raised each year.
Saga Dawa is called the “month of merits” for Tibetan Buddhists. Dawa means “month” in Tibetan, and “Saga” or “Saka” is the name of a star prominent in the sky during the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar when Saga Dawa is observed. Saga Dawa usually begins in May and ends in June. This is a month especially dedicated to “making merit.” Merit is understood in many ways in Buddhism. We can think of it as the fruits of good karma, especially when this brings us closer to enlightenment.
|Drigung Til Monastery Festival
(Drigung Til Cham Dance Festival)
|10 JUN 2018||Drigung Til Monastery||First established in 1167, Drigung Til Monastery【4150m】is the head monastery of the Drigungpa school of the Kagyupa order and the most famous sky-burial site in central Tibet. Drigung Til Monastery sprouts from a high, steep ridge overlooking the Zhorong Valley at Maizhokunggar County, abt 150km east of Lhasa city.
Summer Dharma Assembly in Drigung Til Monastery starts from the 25th day of the fourth month in Tibetan Calendar, lasting for 5 days. It is held to commemorate the parinirvana of Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Gonpo Rinpoche ( Jigten Sumgön) , the founder of Drigung Tli Monastery. And it has become a kind of Drigung Til Monastery tradition to perform traditional Tibetan cham dance, Buddhist music, ghost-dispelling ritual, etc.
|Tashihunpo Monastery Festival
(Buddha Exhibition Festival in Tashilhunpo Monastery)
|28 JUN 2018||Tashihunpo Monastery||Covering 70,000 sq meters, Tashihunpo Monastery【3840m】in Shigatse is now the largerst functioning religious institution in Tibet and one of its great monastic sights. Its huge golden statue of the Future Buddha is the largest gilded statue in the world.
As an important religious Tibet festival with a history over 500 years, Tashihunpo Monastery Festival, also known as Buddha Exhibition Festival in Tashilhunpo Monastery enjoys high popularity among local Tibetans and tourists. Tashilhunpo Thangka Festival usually erupts for three days in the middle of the fifth lunar Tibetan month, from May 14th-16th in Tibetan Calendar every year. Different Buddhas are exhibited on each day during this festival. Events culminate with the unveiling of a huge Thangka (religious painting) on the festival Thangka Wall in Tashihunpo Monastery. The whole exposition zone spreads over 1,000 meters, decorated by silk and satins.
|Trandruk Monastery Festival
(Trandruk Cham Dance Festival)
|28 JUN 2018||Trandruk Monastery||Dating back to the 7th-century regin of Songtsen Gampo, Trandruk Monastery, located at Yarlung Valley of Tsetang, is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in Tibet. Trandruk Monastery is founded at the same time as Lhasa’s Jokhang & Ramoche to act as one of Tibet’s demoness-subduing temples (Trandruk Monastery pins down the demoness’ left shoulder).
Trandruk Cham Dance Festival lasts two or three days from the 15th day of the 5th Tibetan lunar month. Special ceremonies and cham dancing are the main attractions.
|Samye Monastery Festival
(Samye Cham Dance Festival)
|28 JUN 2018||Samye Monastery||Surrounded by barren mountains and rolling sand dunes, Samye Monastery【3630m】is Tibet’s first monastery and the place where Buddhism was established, also of major historical and religious importance.
Held over 2 or 3 days from the full moon (15th day) of the fifth lunar month, the main events here are elaborate ritual ceremonies and cham dancing in front of the Ütse.
|Gyantse Horse-Racing Festival
(Gyantse Damar Festival)
|10 JUL 2018||Gyantse||Lying on a historical trade route between India & Tibet, Gyantse【3980m】has long been a crucial link for traders and pilgrims journeying across the Himalaya plateau.
Gyantse Horse-Racing Festival (Gyantse Damar Festival) is usually held in fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. It is said that Gyantse Horse-Racing Festival started as an athletic competition in the 1400s. As the years went by, it became an important inter-village competition. Buddhist worship and other events and festivities were added in. Of course, if a lot of people from various villages get together, they need to eat together peaceably, and they’ll have a picnic. They’ll also swap merchandise and have a swap meet, and a market will start as people come to try to sell their merchandise.
|Ganden Monastery Festival
(Ganden Thangka Festival)
|27 JUL 2018||Ganden Monastery||Just 50km northeast of Lhasa, Ganden Monastery【4300m】was the first Gelugpa monastery and has been the main seat of this major Buddhist order ever since. With its stupendous views of the surrounding Kyichu Valley and fascinating kora, Ganden Monastery is an experience unlike the other major Gelugpa monasteries in the Lhasa area.
During the 15th day of the sixth lunar month, during Ganden Monastery Festival, Ganden Monastery displays its 25 holiest relics, which are normally locked away. A large offering ceremony accompanies the unveiling. During Ganden Monastery Festival, thousands Tibetan Buddhists circle Ganden Monastery, enter inside to view the Buddha, pray, and get blessed, and then they go outside to sit on the hill or try to get close to the wall where the big and vividly giant woven thangka is displayed.
|Nagqu Horse-Racing Festival||08 AUG 2018||Nagqu||Abt 320km away from Lhasa, Nagqu is known for its pasture and its annual Nagqu Horse-Racing Festival in August. Nagqu Horse-Racing Festival involves horse races, yak races, tugs of war, staging of Tibetan operas and trade fair ,etc. Not only is the festival for Tibetan nomads to compete physically and trade farm products but a rare chance for tourists to experience true lives of Tibet nomads.|
|11 AUG 2018||Drepung Monastery & Sera Monastery & Norbulingka Park||Shoton Festival in the first week of the 7th lunar month starts with the dramatic unveiling of a giant thangka at Drepung Monastery before moving to Sera Monastery and then down to Norbulingka Park for Performances of Tibetan opera and some epic picnics.
“Shoton” in Tibetan means yogurt banquet. As Tibetan operas are performed and Buddha paintings are exhibited at this time, it is also called “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Buddha Exhibition Festival”. Shoton Festival is the most important and attractive for the Tibetans with full of ethnic songs and dances along with famous Tibetan opera performing at Norbulingka Park. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans gather at Drepung Monetary to see the famous Giant Buddha Thangka.
|Drak Yerpa Festival||20 AUG 2018||Drak Yerpa||Drak Yerpa Cave Hermitage, abt 16km northeast of Lhasa, is one of the holiest cave retreat. Among the many ascetics who have sojourned here are Guru Rinpoche and Atisha, the Bengali Buddhist who spent 12 years proselytizing in Tibet. King Songtsen Gampo also meditated in a cave, after his Tibetan wife established the first of Yerpa’s chapels. The peaceful site offers lovely views and is a great day trip from Lhasa.
Drak Yerpa Cave Hermitages are known for its Drak Yerpa Festival. The celebration continues 2 or 3 days, including religious ceremonies and masked cham dances performed by monks.
|Butter Lantern Festival||02 DEC 2018||Barkhor Street & Jokhang Temple||Butter Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month. During the daytime, people go to pray in temples and monasteries while at night there is a lantern show. The butter lanterns they made prayer themselves. Various lanterns with butter sculptures shaped in the image of deities, animals, plants, and human figures are displayed, attracting people from the neighboring areas to appreciate them. Some of the lanterns are as high as two or three-storey buildings. Often, there is puppet show held as well and the event will last for several days.
The busiest place in Lhasa during Butter Lantern Festival is around Barkhor Street and Jokhang Temple, where many lanterns are displayed. At night, the lights lanterns make the whole street bright as in the day. People sing and dance while enjoying the lanterns.