The Special Ladakhi Losar New Year Tour
How Ladakh got its New Year :
This New Year festival has an interesting history. In the 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Balti forces during winter. He was advised that any expedition before the New Year would be inauspicious. Like Alexander's solution was direct and simple. He advanced the New Year celebrations by two months, establishing a tradition that people still follow celebrating Losar on the first day of the eleventh month of every year.
Blending Buddhism with Bonism :
Losar is the most elaborate of all the socio-religious events of Ladakh. It involves the entire population of the region. Interestingly, the rites and rituals are a mixture of Buddhist and the pre-Bhuddhist Bon religious practices. Preparations start by the end of the harvest period when people start stocking provisions, sheep and goats for the customary feasts as well as grain for brewing 'chang' (a local barley beer). New clothes and jewellery are kept ready for the occasion.
Lights and Feasting :
The festivities start on the 29th day of the 10th months with the illumination of buildings and shrines. Sheep and goats reserved for the occasion are ritually slaughtered to begin the series of evening feasts for all relatives by rotation.
Ritual and Warmth :
The New Year day itself starts with the offering of votives and greetings to various gods, elders, relatives and friends. Afterwards, the elders await the customary visitors who come to greet the family with presents and 'Khatak' (ceremonial) scarf). The younger members go out to visit other families. Leh and its adjoining villages wear a carnival look as people come out in their colourful best. It is customary for the Muslims and Christian in Leh to visit their Buddhist friends and greet them on the eve of Losar.
Guardians of Prosperity :
Images of ibex and other auspicious symbols are put on the door, walls of the kitchen and the top-end of is central wooden column. The ibex is a symbol of fertility and is believed to bring prosperity. Small images of ibex moulded from dough are arranged on kitchen shelves to add to the good luck.
The procession of fire :
In the evening, the 'Metho' ceremony takes place. The bazaars of Leh and the streets of villages get lit up as processions bearing flaming torches pass through with the people chanting slogans to chase out evil spirits and hungry ghosts - the result of bad Karma (one's deeds). Whirling torches create a fantastic display of fire and light. At the end of it all, the torches are thrown well outside the town to bid farewell to the old year and to welcome the new one.
Galddan Namchot :
Tsongkhapa's Birthday and Buddhahood: This socio-religious event is celebrated to observe the birthday and the Buddhahood or Tsongkhapa - the Tibetan saint-scholar who founded the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism during the 14th century. The Gelukpa school later developed as the dominant monastic order in Central Tibet . The festivities include illumination of all monastic, public and residential buildings throughout Ladakh.Namchot heralds the beginning of the New Year celebrations, which continue till the festival of Dosmoche. During this festival, it is customary to prepare various varieties of the traditional dish, 'Thukpa' in every home to be served to visiting friends and relatives to mark celebration of the festival.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY :
Arrival at Leh airport and transfer to Hotel. Rest.
Half day sightseeing to Sankar Gompa, Shanti Stupa, Leh Palace . In the evening, visitors will witness the Hashalo (swinging of a fire ball tied to a long string by all the youth) celebration.
Drive to Saboo village to visit local houses to greet Losar.
Full day sightseeing to Shey palace, Thiksey and Hemis Gompas and back to hotel.
Losar celebration begins at Hemis Shukpachan, which is about 70 kilometers from Leh. Night stay will be at the same village in a guest house.
Visit to Rizong monastery in taxi. Rizong monastery is the only monastery with no annual mask dance festival. However, it focuses more on individual practices. It is relatively a new monastery - about over 100 years old. A nunnery is there on the way to Rizong, which is reached by a little trek through a gorge and back to Guesthouse at Hemisshokpachan.
Cultural song and dances besides others rituals in Hemis Shukpachan.
Sightseeing to Lamayuru and Alchi and back to GuestHouse.
Drive back to Leh while visiting Phyang and Spituk monasteries on the way. Night stay in Leh.
Full day sightseeing in Chemdey and Takthok monasteries about 45 kilometers from Leh.
Full day relaxtion/ leisure in Leh.
Transfer to Leh airport and fly back to Delhi.
The Ladakh Losar program can be modified to fit in visit Agra ( Taj Mahal & Rajestan tour for 5-7 days).