The Tibetan word “Losar”, which translates to “New Year” in English is the most popular and significant festival of the North East Indian state of Sikkim and is celebrated with great enthusiasm every year. The festival also coincides with the end of the harvesting season, providing all the farmers the much-needed break to rejoice the fruits of their patience and hard work. It would not be incorrect to say that while Losar is a much-awaited event for the locals, it is also looked forward to with the same zeal by many cultural enthusiasts and photographers worldwide who are eagerly waiting to get a closer rendezvous with the vibrant culture and traditions of this little jewel of North East India.
The history of Losar festival predates to arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and its neighbouring regions like parts of India, Bhutan and Nepal. It is believed that in earlier days, it was celebrated as a winter ceremony which involved offering of large quantities of incense to appease local deities and drive away negative spirits. Gradually, with changes in Tibetan astrological methods and predictions, it started to be celebrated as a warm welcome to a new harvesting season and new year. Today, Losar is the most significant of all festivals for Tibetan Buddhists and is celebrated with all pomp and show worldwide.
The date of this gala festival mostly falls in the month of February (more precisely, the 29th day of the 12th month of Tibetan lunar calendar year) and celebrations for the same commence more than a week before, gripping the entire state in the mood of festivities and merry-making. Streets, houses and monasteries get adorned in vibrant colours, with people indulging themselves in shopping for new clothes and jewellery, and organizing re-union dinners amongst friends and families. Yak dance performances by youngsters on the streets make the atmosphere even more electrifying, providing the outsiders a deeper insight into an effervescent Sikkimese culture.
Cham masked dance performances by the lamas in monasteries of Sikkim is one of the most integral and significant parts of the Losar celebrations, which often lure people across the nation and parts of the world to come and soak themselves in the unmatched festive spirits. Another noteworthy highlight of Losar is the ritual of offering buckets of Tsampa (a mixture of roasted barley flour and butter) on home altars praying for a good harvest in the current New Year. There are yet many more interesting rituals which are performed by the Sikkimese; those interested in getting a closer insight into all these customs can arrange for a homestay with a Sikkimese family and participate in their day to day rituals, also knowing the significance of each one in a much deeper detail.