The Tibetan new year, Losar, is celebrated for 15 days, beginning in 2023 on February 21. In Ladakh, India’s high altitude desert state on top (literally) of the Himalayas, Losar is marked with traditional Tibetan-style rituals and practices: new year preparation, acts of gratitude to spirits, predictions for the new year. Homes are cleaned, cleared with incense, decorated with flowers. Walls are painted with images of the sun and moon. New clothes are acquired, relationships mended, debts settled, offerings made for a year of healthy harvest.
Four Februarys ago I was in Ladakh just outside of its capitol Leh at Mathu Monastery during the first three, the most important, days of Losar. Mathu Monastery’s 14th century courtyard and balconies strained with patient pilgrims spinning prayer wheels and eating momos. Political dignitaries spoke, prayers were chanted. On day three, after hours of traditional dance, with a light, dry snow drifting down, two Tibetan Oracles emerged with angry energy after 30 days of fasting meditation, swinging swords over their heads, running bare-chested through the crowded courtyard, up and down narrow stairwells and along the top walls of the monastery. Eventually maroon-robed attendants coaxed their naked, chosen monk bodies into silky embroidered layers of robes and scarves, binding them with belts of dangling shells and plastic skulls. The Oracles had arrived to predict the fortune, good or bad, of the coming year.
These photos do little to capture the mystical, traditional, entrancing honoring of Losar; photos of the revered Oracles were not allowed. We share them as a bit of little arm chair travel to a most amazing part of the world during a most amazing celebration.
ann, chattra founder