Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chunga Choepa (Tibetan butter lamp festival)

Although I am not near enough to a community who celebrates the amazing and colorful Chunga Choepa, or Tibetan butter lamp festival, I wanted to know more about it. And what better way to learn about something than sharing with others? Because this festival is held according to the lunar calendar (i.e. the 15th day of the first lunar month), I am a little confused as to whether the butter lamp festival is today, March 8th or March 19th, 2012. 

But no matter- whenever it is, Chunga Choepa (also called Chotrul Duchen) is an important festival which celebrates miracles performed by the Buddha and his oratory victory in a debate with cynics. There is music, dancing, and blessings are given. But the highlights of the festival are the amazingly huge sculptures that monks create out of, that's right . . . yak butter! These sculptures are indeed something to behold, and feature a myriad of designs such as flowers, animals, and people that are realistically portrayed through the use of carefully carved and richly colored yak butter. When finished, the sculptures are displayed on the main Barkhor district of Lhasa and illuminated with butter lamps. People from all over the city come to witness this awesome display, and stay out all night to enjoy the festivities. The butter sculptures slowly melt in the heat, demonstrating the impermanence of all things. 

Having been to a Tibetan Buddhist temple in the midwest, I have seen an example of these amazing works of art. I can't imagine beholding a whole street-full of them all at once- it must be absolutely breathtaking. If you have been to Lhasa during this time or otherwise participated in a Tibetan Butter Lamp festival, please share your experience in the comments!    

You can find more about the Tibetan butter lamp festival here. Also, check out this very interesting article about the 'Festival of the Butter Gods' and the important role that yak butter plays in the lives of the Tibetan people. (Note: It is unclear from the article whether the 'Festival of the Butter Gods' and 'Chunga Choepa' are the same- if you know, please speak up in the comments!) 

For the dates of other Buddhist holidays in 2012, click here.    

I hope you enjoyed this post. May all beings be happy!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment! If you enjoyed this post, please share with others. -With Metta, Renata

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