Losar is a popular festival for Tibetan Buddhism, marking the beginning of New Year and celebrated with much gusto. It is a three-day festival observed by Tibetans worldwide with prayers, ceremonies, folk dances, passing fire torches among gatherings, and friends and family reunions, especially the hanging prayer flags.
This year, let us welcome the Tibetan New Year by taking a look at some of the fascinating books on Tibet and its cultural and historical legacy:
Windhorse Warrior, by R.C. Friedericks, is a tale that weaves together the politics of occupation and resistance, an otherworldly romance between a Chinese communist and an educated Tibetan woman, and the soaring vision of the Tibetan spiritual heart.
Here is an extract from the book (p. 183):
Turning to the rest of the audience, Goddess Manene delivered the rest of her message to them.
‘Like Gesar’s, his pure heart will fly straight through this world like an arrow but his acts will seem strange to deluded minds. He will use worldly means guided by primordial wisdom. Together, you will face demons and their unwitting slaves who are determined to pervert the face of liberation.’
She paced to the other side of the stage.
‘Tread the path he shows you as windhorse warriors!’
White crane, lend me your wings: A Tibetan Tale of Love and War, by TsewangYishey Pemba,is a historical fiction set in the beautiful Nyarong valley of the Kham province of Eastern Tibet in the first half of the twentieth century.This coming-of-age narrative is a riveting tale of vengeance, warfare, and love unfolded through the life story of two young boys and their family and friends.
Here is an extract from the book(p. 191):
There was that Losar (Tibetan New Year) when they had all been invited to SamdrupDawa’s house for several days in succession. Endless parties, each rivalling the previous day’s fun: mah-jong, dancing and dicing; shooting competitions (why couldn’t they’ve put on a swimming contest?); and what marvellous exotic food prepared by a Szechuanese chef, especially summoned for the Losar season by SamdrupDawa from Dartsedo.
Indian Tibet Tibetan India: The Cultural Legacy of the Western Himalayas, by Peter Van Ham, captures the fascinating history of the exploration of the present Indian border region towards Tibet, accompanied by beautiful pictures collected from rare textual and visual materials in a never-seen-before way.
Here is an extract from the book (p. 77):
The secular festivals are also of interest and beauty. Such is the case with Da Chang, celebrated by the menfolk for six days in February. On this occasion a healthy young boy is chosen to shoot a single arrow from the rooftop towards the river to symbolise the victory over all evil and disease.
Tibetan Art by LokeshChandra is a comprehensive introduction to the complex iconography of thankas. It provides a glimpse of the mind-ground of this art and the land where it flourished and closely connected with ritual and meditation.
Here is an extract from the book(page 58):
The most widely venerated Bodhisattva in Tibet is the SadaksariLokesvara, who incarnates in the Dalai Lamas to lead people to the bliss of Wisdom and Compassion. His mantra of six syllables (sad-aksara) is OM MA-NI PA-DME HUM which is inscribed on the flat surfaces of sturdy rocks. Specific walls are erected to proclaim the mantra. Human hands whirl mani wheels. Lips mutter the incantation and hearts enshrine it.
Buddhist Paintings of Tun-Huang: In the National Museum, New Delhi, by Lokesh Chandra and Nirmala Sharma, is a richly illustrated book that examines the Tun-Huang Buddhist cave paintings at the National Museum in New Delhi. It traces the history of Tun-huang from the dreams of Chinese emperors to control the Deep Sands, the role of Yueh-chihs, the excavation of the first cave, the folk legends, the iconography of the paintings, and the three periods of the art of the murals from AD 397−1368.
Here is an extract from the book (pp. 22−23):
The paintings and sculptures of Tun-huang have left radiant memories in folk legends of the area. The village elders have sung of this sacred oasis in their poetic narration of the miraculous charm of the region, and how a monk was moved to convert a rocky cliff rising beside a meandering rivulet into a wonder of centuries. The walls of the Tun-huang Caves were covered by murals of surpassing beauty. It became the sacred oasis, one of the glories of Buddhism.