The Tibetan new Year
18th February 2007, Tibetan New Year’s Day
Through this Tibetan fire-boar New Year’s Day, my team and I wish the best of health and success to all of you, and especially to H.H. the Dalai Lama and the fellow Tibetan people inside and outside of Tibet.
The Tibetan New Year falls quite differently than that of the Gregorian calendar as it follows the lunar phase almanac. The red fire and blue boar colors of the year come from the Tibetan Astrology tradition and is a symbolic language for the prediction of the upcoming year. Here, the red and blue colors may look a bit like a conflictual year energy, but actually, this year could be better than the last.
However, the astrology horoscope also warns that the fire element sign of the coming year could contribute significantly to the global warming and that the year may provoke fever, infection and bile disorders. The fire element seems more powerful than the animal power of water, therefore bile increasing food and behaviors should be reduced to the minimum and essentials in order to keep a good health.
The Tibetan cultural and astrological science has developed two different New Year festivals, and three beginnings of the year related to agricultural, official and spiritual reasons based on two astrological systems, related to the lunar calendar.
The first New Year’s Day, called Shingpai losar or farmers’ New Year’s Day, falls on the first day of the eleventh Tibetan Month (in mid December on the western calendar). This month and day both belong to the Tiger sign animal of the month. They have the energy of the wood element and so bring spring season and its breaths. This tradition is based on elemental astrology (Jungtsi) and is celebrated mainly by Tibetan farmers and people from the Indian Himalayan countries, like Ladakhis, Nepali Tamang and Sherpas and Bhutanis. There is another story on this point: the Tibetan historical literatures recorded that the new year was set up by the Tibetan King Tri Ralpachen (806-841 A.D) who brought the New year forward by a month and celebrated it on the 11th month to deceive the Chinese military strategy and win the war against China. This has remained as a tradition until now.
The second New Year’s Day is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Tibetan year. Generally this New Year falls between the end of February and middle of March in the western calendar. This is the public and Tibetan Royal official New Year’s Day that is celebrated in all Tibetan societies. It is ‘Royal New Year‘ as well as the Tibetan Medicine New Year. It is considered as the beginning of the spring season.
The third New Year’s Day has a Buddhist spiritual origin, and is purely based on the Kalachakra astrology concept. It is not popular and is generally not celebrated by common people. But astrologers keep this old calendar tradition, which starts from the third month of the Tibetan year (around April in western calendar) where Buddha expounded the Kalachakra tantra.
Tibetan astrologers have combined all these calendars into one almanac to be able to use each calendar systems without conflict and confusion.
Astrology is a part of Tibetan medicine, and Tibetan physicians learn this science and its concept and practice. It is an essential supplement for the better understanding of the complete system of gross and subtle body and psycho-humoral body/mind concept transformations.
Dr. Pasang Yonten Arya T. Sherpa
Director of New Yuthok Institute for Tibetan Medicine, Italy
Former professor and principal of the “Mentseekhang” (Tibetan Medical College) of Dharamsala, India.