Marking the start of spring and the first day of the lunar calendar, Losar is a popular festival of Arunachal Pradesh. It is celebrated by the people of Monpa Tribe who are said to be inhabitants of Arunachal Pradesh since 500 BC. Monpa Tribe practices agriculture and animal husbandry and follows Buddhist religion. Losar is a 3-day festival, which is celebrated with great pomp and show in Tawang.
The term Losar is made of two words, ‘Lo’-which means year and ‘Sar’ - meaning new. The festival is observed to ward off evil spirits and welcome the the new year that shall be filled with happiness and prosperity. The date for the festival mostly falls in the months of January, February or March; and the Tibetan lunar calendar assigns an element and an animal to each year.
A day prior to the main festivals, people clean and paint their houses; and prepare offerings, which is known as ‘Lama Losar.’ Eight auspicious symbols called Tashi Dargye - the precious umbrella, a victory banner, 2 golden fish, a right coiled white conch shell, a lotus flower, a vase of treasure, the Dharma Wheel and the Eternal Knot are used to decorate houses. On the day of the festival, first the prayers are offered at Tawang Monastery, offerings are also made to the household shrine. In the evening, a traditional noodle soup called guthuk is prepared, which contains dumplings made from flour and water by stuffing with nine different fortune symbols that is said to determine the fortune of the person in the next year. The second day of the festival is reserved for the King and is called Gyalpo Losar.
On this day people visit their friends and participate in traditional mask dance, Aji Lhamu. They even exchange greetings and wish one another ‘tashi delek’, which means ‘good luck’. In the evening torches are lit by the people with the belief that it will ward off evil spirits from their abodes.
On the final day of Losar festival, visits are paid to the local monastery to offer prayers, donation of food and clothes is also made, and people raise flags, make butter sculptures and burn juniper leaves.