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22nd Tibetan Shoton Festival

By Dorji Kyi  /  April 25, 2017;

Shoton Festival in Tibet

The 22ndTibetan Shoton Festival – or the Yogurt Festival as it is commonly known – was held from at Dekyi-ling Tibetan settlement in Uttarakhand on April 19 – 24.

The Festival is held annually, its origins going back to the 14th Century when it was founded by Thang Tong Gyalpo who was a pioneering civil engineer who built hundreds of iron and wooden suspension bridges to facilitate travel and pilgrimage through out the Himalayas. Even today the remnants of some of his iron chain bridges still stand in Tibet and Bhutan.

A traditional Tibetan folk opera called Lhamo or Ache Lhamo is performed every year at the Festival through a unique combination of dialogue, dance, chants and songs. Based on Buddhist teachings and Tibetan historical figures, Ache Lhamo are traditionally stories of love, devotion, good and evil. The procedure and style in which Ache Lhamo are performed has changed little since the time of inception.
In Tibet, the Shoton festival is usually held in the months of June and July, according to the Tibetan Lunar calendar, and it is one of the grandest traditional festivals there. Apart from the Ache Lhamo performances, the Thangka unveiling ceremony in Drepung Monastery draws hundreds of people from all parts of Tibet to come to see the 500squaremetre painting of Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha).

Photo: TIPA Facebook

The first ever Shoton Festival performed in exile was in 1996, with four participants. The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) has been at the forefront in promoting and renewing the Lhamo art form in the Tibetan exile community and performs in the annual exile Festival.

This year, Kyabgon Vajra Ratna Rinpoche, the 42nd Sakya Trizin at NorlingKyimoetsel, graced the Festival’s inauguration and the Festival started with the offering of Mendrel Tensum (the three representations of the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind) to Rinpoche by Mr Pesur Wangdue, TIPA. The keynote address was given by chief guest Vajra Ratna Rinpoche. The gathering also included a thirty minute presentation of opera by each of the ten regional opera groups participating in this year’s festival.

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