Happy New Black Water Snake Year 2013 !
On February 11, 2013 Buddhists around the world celebrate New Year according to the Buddhist calendar, the year of the Black Water Snake. Tibetan New Year, or Losar (sometimes known as Losar Gyalpo – Imperial New Year) is celebrated for a maximum of 2 weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Usually, during these days you can see many interesting things like animals and ritual dancing skeletons, black hats dance, dance with swords, battle stages between good and evil, fire performances and a mystery spectacle Tsam, with different historical and mythological characters.
For Buddhists Losar is the sacred period that should be devoted to family, feasts and celebrations. In order for the coming year to be successful, at the end of the finishing year it is good to do a spring cleaning in the house and paint it with fresh paint.
Homes are decorated with lights, and the roofs of homes with decorative umbrellas and prayer flags. The walls, pillars and beams of the house, and even the yard are decorated with drawings made of a special paint with flour or batter.
They represent different characters that are bringing luck such as the moon, the sun, or a flower or a vase. Also to decorate people use small flashlights and juniper branches, attached to the door. People throw out of their homes last year’s debris and junk, as it is considered a bad thing to enter the New Year with old trash and dirt.
In some areas, people make in advance a small sculpt, a small figure named Linga, tying to it pieces of expensive cloth, ribbons, coins and all sorts of decorations. Then, all family members perform a special rite, conjuring spirits of grief and unhappiness to enter into Linga. On the last day of the last month of the old year a specially invited Lama comes, takes the figure and then burns it in a specially prepared fire.
To entertain family and friends, Tibetans bake whole mountains of cakes, and also some special buns for a divination, which are stuffed with a variety of items: chips, chunks of coal, scraps of paper, yak hair, medicinal roots, rice and even lumps of manure, or salt.
If a person finds a paper in his bun in the coming year he will study, if he finds a piece of wood the poverty awaits for him in the coming year, if he finds manure – good fortune, if the medicinal root – the health and victory. Similar “predictive” rolls are also offered in the monasteries.
After the meal, the eldest in the family rubs all his relatives with a piece of dough, which is then carried away with collected dust and debris from house cleaning and burned somewhere away from home, preferably at the intersection.
This way people get rid of all the bad that happened in the old year and do not take this “baggage” in the new year. In the Buddhist monasteries the ritual dances of monks are performed, called Tsam.
With these dances monks before the New Year get rid of all the negativity. This negativity comes in three forms: external, internal and secret. The external factors include disease, hunger and all sorts of inconveniences of life. Internal are hatred, envy, pride, and similar negative emotions. The secret ones are all that prevent the person to realize the frailty of his life and see the path to enlightenment.
Celebration spectacle takes a few hours and consists of four parts: peace, neutralization, submission and destruction. At the culmination of the spectacle, at the end of the fourth part, i.e destruction there come flaming arrows that set on fire a prepared before construction of big bonfire, called Torma.
It symbolizes all the negative things and the troubles of the year and by burning it, they are all destroyed. Many local people bring with them old clothes or any unwanted stuff and burn in the sacred fire.
Like this they also get rid of the old bad things. Before the Losar it is usually advised to give away all debts, to settle all important matters and to ask for forgiveness for the wrong things.
In Buryatia people also celebrate Tibetan New Year, it is called Sagaalgan. In Buryat “sagaalha” means whitening, “sayrulha” – to make white, to bring clarity, “shenelha” – update, new. We say “shene zhel”, a new year, which means to establish new relationships with friends, neighbors, to forgive , to let go past hurts, to repay.
In ancient times in Mongolia and Buryatia the elders of aimaks together with their peoples were bringing prayer sacrifices and gifts to the spirits of land, ongons and burhans. They prayed to the eternal blue sky Tengeri, the Sun and the mother Earth. Shamans were performing traditional ceremonies.
In time a whole pantheon of gods appeared with all the Buddhist complex attributes which got blended into the celebration, introducing spiritual innovations. Sagaalgan got new features but it was always a public holiday and it preserved the ancient traditions and customs.
Today on February 9, two days before the New Year, at 19 o’clock Lamas will read a special prayer Dugzhuuba then will set a ritual fire. This ordinance is aimed at getting rid of sorrows, sins and sorrows of the year. For a fire all visitors make the dough at home (just flour and water, with no additives) and roll it in small pieces.
Then a piece of dough must first be rolled on the forehead which is symbolically collecting bad thoughts, then around the mouth which is collecting bad words, on the chest which is purifying the soul, then on the palms which is like giving the dough bad actions.
You can also roll that piece of dough over the entire surface of the body, imagining at the same time that it pulled out from you all the bad things: disease, damage, negative emotions. Then these pieces of dough are thrown into a ritual bonfire, which is lit in the temple, and all bad things will burn in the fire.
At the same time Lamas prepare the so-called “Sor, the dirt “, a topped with a skull pyramid of lath, paper and dough that resembles an arrowhead. Under the ritual prayers they “put” the bad karma of the community from the past year, and then it is solemnly burned at the separate fire as symbol of spiritual purification.