Prayers for Tibetan New Year

CNC report from Tibet
Added On February 8, 2013

Celebrations for the Chinese Lunar New Year will begin this weekend.

The Spring Festival, which lasts half a month, is the most important holiday in China and a traditional occasion for family reunions.

The start of this year's Spring Festival is just one day apart from the New Year in the Tibetan calendar.

The Tibetan New Year begins on Monday, also lasting 15 days.

As the holiday draws near, Tibetans are soaking themselves in religious events -- praying for a peaceful and prosperous year of the Water Snake.

Champa Ling is the largest Gelukpa Monastery in the east of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Cham, an annual religious ritual to exorcise evils and pray for blessing, kicked off here on Thursday.

Dressed in colorful costumes, masked clergy in this 500-year-old monastery danced to pounding drums in the presence of devout Buddhism followers.

Many of the pilgrims had arrived before dawn to seize a good position to watch the sacred three-day performance.

In the regional capital of Lhasa, a grand Sera Bengqin Festival opened at the Sera Monastery on the same day.

Some 70,000 Tibetan Buddhism believers gathered at the monastery to mark the traditional event.

It's also a prelude for the celebration of Tibetan New Year, called Losar in Tibetan, which falls on Monday this year.

On Thursday morning, worshipers waiting to be empowered by the monastery's treasure, Doreje Phurba, lined up in a queue stretching 3 kilometers.

Tibetans believe the enshrined instrument, first buried by an Indian master who brought Buddhism to the highland some 1,300 years ago, can bring good fortune and ward off disasters.

Although the empowerment ritual normally lasts only 24 hours, the clergy will not rest until all worshippers have been blessed.

SOUNDBITE (Tibetan): YESHE LHAMO, Buddhism follower
"I come from the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu Province. I have been waiting here for four hours. I wish I could enter a good university in the future."

SOUNDBITE (Tibetan): SICHUNG TSERING, Buddhism follower
"I wish all lives have no illness, no sorrow, and no disaster. I hope all my wishes will come true."

The chief of the monastery management committee says they have arranged for 20 buses to shuttle the worshipers free of charge.

An express line was opened for the elderly, sick and disabled as well as children to shorten their waiting time.