Losar : Animal’s Day
I think I am in fact the least excited and most boring person at any form of festival. Much of it could be due to my introverted genes that wouldn’t fancy gatherings, dancing, fireworks or any other things which involve interacting with strangers, but part of it must be because of my upbringing. I am not sure of both though. But my heart just cannot seem to invite festivity as much as my friends and family do.
I hail from a small nomadic village in Ladakh where the livelihood of everyone is dependent on livestock. Almost every household owns some goats, sheep, horses and yak. These animals aren’t merely our source of income, but are used for obtaining food, fetching water, traveling, and most importantly seeking comforts and friendship. Since our life revolves around rearing these animals and more importantly enduring the harsh reality of having no access to electricity, water and worse not even a single shop in the vicinity throughout the year, we have little time for festivity. Or, many of us are even oblivious of its existence, except for Losar- the Tibetan new year and Thrungkar Duechen - His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s birthday. Hence, every single person in the village looks forward to these two days like a child, although for different reasons.
Photo Courtesy: Namgyal Lhamo
My fondest memories of Losar and Thrungkar were significantly boring compared to my cousins. But these days, no matter how many festivals I witness as I travel through urban life, there is nothing more meaningful and beautiful than this idea of celebration I got to see early in my life. It was on one of the third days of Losar. My father came to me, patted my head gently and said with a smile “Life of your polled lamb will be set free”. I was elated beyond words and this memory has remained in my heart so vividly. In my village, on the third day of Losar or Thrungkar, fathers of the households are the busiest. They get up early in the morning to appease the Land God and other deities who are believed to be the true owners of our land according to their ancestors. This is followed by their brief journey to the animal shed where they would choose some animals randomly and set their life free. By that, we are not allowed to send them to slaughter houses, milk them and are expected to watch them with unconditional love and care which every animal receives anyway, until they die. It was my most awaited moment of the festival. My siblings and I would always hug our father with utter joy after he would come out of the shed. This act is mostly done to honor and thank the sacrifices of animals for our livelihoods while it is also performed for the health and long life of His Holiness and carry his message of love, kindness and compassion towards animals.
We eventually shifted to a town nearby, leaving the whole nomadic life behind due to the inability of my family to see the animals suffer for our survival. But, as I look back, I realised that it was this place where I gave birth to my love for animals. Today, even if we live a totally different life, my parents make sure to celebrate these two days by setting at least one animal’s life free. There is nothing more rewarding at a festival for me than this act of genuine kindness. Somehow I think of these two days as a festival of animals and I hope to carry this tradition forward in my own life too.
Photo Courtesy: Namgyal Lhamo
About the Author
Namgyal Lhamo is currently based in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. She is a Tibetan refugee born in a small nomadic village in Ladakh where she works as a Tibetan physician. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and just being in nature’s embrace.