Shoton Festival of Tibet
Shoton Festival Facts
"Shoton" in Tibetan means sour milk 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". The traditional way of starting the Shoton Festival is to show Buddha paintings. The main contents include Tibetan operas and gala parties, as well as wonderful yak racing and horsemanship display. The Shoton Festival starts on the 30th June according to Tibetan calendar (The 2019 Shoton Festival was held from August 30 to September 5 in 2019 Solar Calendar) and lasted for about 7 days.
Origin of Shoton Festival
The Gelug Sect regulates that between April and June according to Tibetan calendar, Lamas can only practice Buddhism in monasteries to avoid treading and killing tiny lives. The ban will be lifted at the end of June. At that time, all lamas go out of monasteries and the laymen will offer them sour milk and perform Tibetan operas for them. After 1642, the Gandain Phodrang (Paradise Palace) of the Drepung Monastery became the political, religious and cultural center of Tibet. Tens of thousands of people rushed there each June 30th to give sour milk to lamas and ask for blessings. The Tibetan Opera troupes and wild yak dancing troupes all came to perform. In this way, the Shoton Festival was formed.
How to Celebrate Shoton Festival
Enjoy Thangka Exhibition
The prelude of the Shoton Festival is the Buddha exhibition in Drepung Monastery, which is held at the foot of the Gebeiwoze Mountain. The tranquil valley becomes excited. With the sound of sutra bugle reverberating through the valley, about 100 lamas will carry the large-scale thangka portraying Qamba Buddha (or Maitreya) out of the Coqen Hall of the Drepung Monastery and step toward the west of the monastery where a special platform is set up for the Buddha picture exhibition.
At this moment, the mulberry smoke arises from all directions, bugles resound and scripture reciting goes on. The large thangka then will be slowly opened up. People rush up to offer white Hada. Countless Hada fly in front of the Buddha picture, forming a great scene. In no more than 2 hours, the tangka will be rolled up again and carried back. Then people go to the courtyard of Gandain Phodrang to watch Tibetan Opera.
Watch Tibetan Opera Performance and Eat Yoghurt
After the Thangka exhibition in Drepung Monastery, Shonton Festival will still last with strong happy atmosphere for several days. During those days, a great number of people will gather with their family and friends in Norbulingka Park to have a family picnic and enjoy wonderful Tibetan shows. The grounds of the Norbulingka are filled with partying groups by gaily colored hanging walls of beautiful rugs and printed canvas. In the afternoon of the first day, Norbulingka turns to a center of activities, and many well-known Tibetan opera teams will perform the traditional performance to please the people. This park will be filled with sings and laughers.
As a tradition passing down, eating Yoghurt is also a way to celebrate Shoton Festival. Nowadays, the Shoton Festival has become a comprehensive celebration activity with the most influences in Tibet. It is also a grand meeting for commodity exchanges.
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