Shoton Festival

In Tibetan language Shoton means “yogurt”. Before the end of the 16th century, it was purely religious. In light of the monastic discipline at that time, monks stayed in retreat for dozens of days, during which they were forbidden to go out to avoid killing insects. Afterwards, the lay people would donate yogurts to them. That was the origin of the festival. Later on in the middle of 17th century, the Tibetan opera play was gradually added as a major events, and therefore, it is also known as Tibetan Opera Festival. Since then it had been celebrated regularly, but still outside of monasteries. Until the early 18th century, the Norbu Linka was inaugurated as the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, and also as the official venue of the annual festival, where ordinary people were allowed access to watch the opera playing. A set of ritualized programs was thus formed. The opera troupes form different regions are gathered in Lhasa, and pay their homage to the Dalai Lama on 29th day of the sixth Tibetan month, and begin to play in Drepung monastery on the next day. On the first day of the seventh month, they will play in Norbu Lingka. Yogurt is a must on the day. Meanwhile, people in Lhasa would adorn themselves with festive attire, and bring with them a lot of food to enjoy the day in Norbu Lingka. In recent Shoton festival, most important event to be attend is the Drepung monastery Thangka display in the morning and Sera monastery Thangka display in the afternoon, on that thousand of Tibetans lines all the way to Drepung since from mid-night to see the Buddha Thangka display and homage to it.

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