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Butter Lamp Festival

Date: January 15th on the Tibetan calendar
Venue: Jokhang Temple, Lhasa (Tibet)

Also called the "Chunga Choepa" this festival turns the Barkhor Square in Lhasa into a grand exhibition site for huge "Tormas" sculpted from butter in the form of various auspicious symbols and lamps. It is a fantastic night.

"Chunga Choepa" used to be the highlight of "Monlam" in Lhasa and in the past the Dalai Lamas would come to the Jokhang Temple and perform the great Buddhist service. The question and answer test for the highest-ranking monk of "Lharampa Geshe" was also held before the Dalai Lama during this festival. These events are now carried out in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama's government is in exile. It is the last day of the prayer festival. In order to celebrate Shakyamuni's victory over non-Buddhist opponents, the Lord of New Dzong, a noted patron of Tsongpa, illuminated numerous butter-lamps in 1409. Ever since then the festival flourished.

The lantern show is held on the evening of the 15th day of the first month. To honor the memory of Sakyamuni, butter sculptures of figures, flowers, birds, and animals are displayed along Barkhor street. People sing and dance in great rejoicing throughout the night.

The lantern show is held on the evening of the 15th day of the first month. To honor the memory of Sakyamuni, butter sculptures of figures, flowers, birds, and animals are displayed along Barkhor Street. People sing and dance in great joy throughout the night. The 15th day of the first month which is the high point of the Great Prayer Festival, there is a fabulous 'Butter lamp day'.

This festival started by Tsong kha-pa in the first Great Prayer Festival in 1409. In his dream, all beautiful flowers and trees appeared in front of Buddha. He commissioned monks to make flowers and trees with coloured butter. This tradition has been maintained to this day. Large scale butter sculptures about stories of Buddha, Princess Wencheng, Han story of 'Monkey' will be exhibited. Scaffoldings several stories high will be erected at many monasteries and thousands of lamps will be hung on them. The displays last all night until dawn. The preparation takes a good part of 4 months.

The Butter Lamp Festival falls on January 15 of the Tibetan calendar, which has its origin in a celebration with many butter lamps to honor the victory of Sakyamuni in a debate against Heretics. During the festive celebration, Barkhor Street in Lhasa is crowded with people and by nightfall is brightly lit with thousands of lamps made of butter in an intriguing assortment of designs. The festive mood lasts throughout the night.