Tibetan scenery

Tibet Shoton Festival 2011

I attended the Shoton festival on two occasions. Shoton is the transliteration of two Tibetan words which mean ‘Yoghurt Banquet’. The festival originated at Drepung Monastery, as a celebration to mark the end of the monks’ Yarné, their hundred day summer retreat. It begins on the new moon marking the end of the sixth Tibetan month. It includes performances of the musical dance dramas known as Ache Lhamo (Tibetan Opera).

Families from all over Tibet gather in the valleys to celebrate this most important event. Wealthy families erect tents that resemble a spacious living area. I had the pleasure of being invited into many tents as a guest.

Food will be served to the visitor, Tibetan Tea with salt. Against all wrong impressions, I must say that I saw Tibetan families with noticable wealth. Many Tibetan folks ride down from high mountain dwellings to attend the Shoton.

Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival

In other parts of Tibet the dances are part of the harvest festival, and yoghurt would be served at the feast which followed. The Ache Lhamo dances are attributed to Thangtong Gyalpo, also known as Chaksampa, a lama of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, also famous for building iron chain bridges in many parts of Tibet.

Tibet - Shoton Festival

Tibet - Shoton Festival

The popularity of this festival was such that the government decreed it an annual event of a further five days, established at the Norbulingka. There are performances by all the established companies from throughout Tibet, some of which can perform the whole Lhamo repertoire, and some who specialize in one particular drama.

Some of the stories are derived from Indian Buddhist legends, while others relate incidents in Tibetan history.   Shoton Festival: Ache Lhamo performance at the Norbulingka

During the festival all the residents of Lhasa go out and gather in the Norbulingka Park. They set up beautiful tents and hang curtains there. They bring cakes, sweets, dairy products, yak-butter tea and have wonderful picnics. Professional and amateur Tibetan opera troupes gather in the Norbulingka Park and perform various Tibetan operas.

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Tibetan horseman

Tibetan horseman