The Tibetan calendar (Tibetan: ལོ་ཐོ, Wylie: lo-tho) is a lunisolar calendar, that is, the Tibetan year is composed of either 12 or 13 lunar months, each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added every two or three years, so that an average Tibetan year is equal to the solar year.
The Tibetan New Year celebration is Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར་, Wylie: lo-gsar). According to almanacs the year starts with the third Hor month. There were many different traditions in Tibet to fix the beginning of the year. The dates of Mongolian calendar are all the same with it.
There were different traditions of naming years (Tibetan: ལོ་, Wylie: lo) in Tibet. From the 12th century onwards, we observe the usage of two sixty-year cycles. The 60-year cycle is known as the Vṛhaspati cycle and was first introduced into Tibet by an Indian Buddhist by the name of Chandranath and Tsilu Pandit in 1025 CE. The first cycle is the rabjyung (Tibetan: རབ་བྱུང༌།, Wylie: rab byung) cycle. The first year of the first rabjyung cycle started in 1027. This cycle was adopted from India. The second cycle was derived from China and was called Drukchu kor (Tibetan: དྲུག་ཅུ་སྐོར།, Wylie: drug cu skor, Sanskrit Vrhaspati). The first year of the first Drukchu kor cycle started in 1024. The cycles were counted by ordinal numbers, but the years within the cycles were never counted but referred to by special names. The structure of the drukchu kor was as follows: Each year is associated with an animal and an element, similar to the Chinese zodiac. Animals have the following order:
Elements have the following order:
Each element is associated with two consecutive years, first in its male aspect, then in its female aspect. For example, a male Earth-Dragon year is followed by a female Earth-Snake year, then by a male Iron-Horse year. The sex may be omitted, as it can be inferred from the animal.
The element-animal designations recur in cycles of 60 years (a Sexagenary cycle), starting with a (male) Wood-Rat year. These large cycles are numbered, the first cycle starting in 1024. Therefore, 2005 roughly corresponds to the (female) Wood-Rooster year of the 17th cycle. The first year of the sixty-year cycle of Indian origin (1027) is called rab-byung (same name as the designation of the cycle) and is equivalent to the (female) fire-Rabbit year.
|Year (Gregorian)||Year according to rabjyung||Wylie||Element||Animal||Sex|
|2008||rabjyung 17 lo 22||sa mo glang||Earth||Rat||male|
|2009||rabjyung 17 lo 23||sa pho khyi||Earth||Ox||female|
|2010||rabjyung 17 lo 24||lcags pho stag||Iron||Tiger||male|
|2011||rabjyung 17 lo 25||lcags mo yos||Iron||Hare||female|
|2012||rabjyung 17 lo 26||chu pho 'brug||Water||Dragon||male|
|2013||rabjyung 17 lo 27||chu mo sbrul||Water||Snake||female|
|2014||rabjyung 17 lo 28||shing pho rta||Wood||Horse||male|
|2015||rabjyung 17 lo 29||shing mo lug||Wood||Sheep||female|
Three relatively modern notations of cardinal numbers are used for Tibetan years.
Since the second half of the 20th century another year notation has been used, where the year of, for example, 2009 coincides with the Tibetan year of 2136. This relatively modern year notation is referred to as Bö Gyello (bod rgyal lo). In this era the first year is 127 BCE, dated to the legendary progenitor of the Yarlung dynasty, Nyatri Tsenpo.
In Tibetan calendars of the second half of the 20th century and on Tibetan coins cardinal year numbers are found with the indication of raplo, where the first year coincides with the first year of the rabjyung-cycle, that is 1027. Rab lo 928, for example, is the year of 1954 on the western Gregorian calendar.
|From about February/March 2009||2136||1755||983|
|From about February/March 2010||2137||1756||984|
|From about February/March 2011||2138||1757||985|
|From about February/March 2012||2139||1758||986|
From the 12th century onwards each month has been named by the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac:
With the introduction of the calendar of the Kalacakratantra in the second half of the 11th century, months were also named via lunar mansions within which, roughly speaking, a full moon took place each month:
In the second half of the 13th century the famous ruler Drogön Chögyal Phagpa introduced the system of counting the month by ordinal numbers, the so-called Hor "Mongolian" month:
All these systems of counting or naming months were used up to modern times.
There are three different types of days (zhag), the khyim zhag, the tshes zhag and the nyin zhag.
The first two of these days are astronomical days. The time needed for the mean sun to pass through one of the twelve traditional signs of the zodiac (the twelve khyim) is called khyim zla (solar month). One-thirtieth of one solar month (khyim zla) is one khyim zhag, which might be called a zodiacal day, because there is no equivalent name in Western terminology.
The time needed by the moon to elongate 12 degrees from the sun and every 12 degrees thereafter is one tithi (tshes zhag, "lunar day"). The lengths of such lunar days vary considerably due to variations in the movements of the moon and sun.
Thirty lunar days form one lunar or synodic month (tshes zla), the period from new moon to new moon. This is equal to the time needed for the moon to elongate 360 degrees from the sun (sun to sun). The natural day (nyin zhag) is defined by Tibetans as the period from dawn to dawn. Strictly speaking, the months appearing in a Tibetan almanac, called by us Tibetan calendar months, are not the same as lunar or synodic months (tshes zla), which can begin and end at any time of day. In Tibetan, there is no special term for a calendar month containing whole days. These calendar months are just called zla ba (month).
A Tibetan calendar month normally starts with the week day or natural day (gza' or nyin zhag) in which the first tithi (tshes zhag) ends. A Tibetan calendar month normally ends with the week day or natural day (gza' or nyin zhag) in which the 30th tithi (tshes zhag) ends. In consequence, a Tibetan calendar month (zla ba) comprises 29 or 30 natural days. In the sequence of natural days or week days, there are no omitted days or days that occur twice. But since these days are also named by the term tshes together with a cardinal number, it happens that certain numbers or dates (the corresponding tithi) do not occur at all (chad) or appear twice (lhag). The tithi are counted from 1 to 30 and it can happen that a Monday with the lunar day number 1 (tshes gcig) is followed by a Tuesday with the moon day number 3 (tshes gsum). On the other hand, a Monday with the lunar day number 1 (tshes gcig) may be followed by a Tuesday with the lunar day number 1 (tshes gcig). In other words, it happens quite often that certain dates do not appear in the Tibetan almanac and certain dates occur twice. But there are no natural days or week days that occur twice or which are omitted.
|Day||Tibetan (Wylie)||Phonetic transcription||Object|
|Sunday||གཟའ་ཉི་མ་ (gza' nyi ma)||nyima||Sun|
|Monday||གཟའ་ཟླ་བ་ (gza' zla wa)||dawa||Moon|
|Tuesday||གཟའ་མིག་དམར་ (gza' mig dmar)||Mikmar||Mars|
|Wednesday||གཟའ་ལྷག་པ་ (gza' lhak pa)||Lhakpa||Mercury|
|Thursday||གཟའ་ཕུར་བུ། (gza' phur bu)||Purbu||Jupiter|
|Friday||གཟའ་པ་སངས་ (gza' pa sangs)||Pasang||Venus|
|Saturday||གཟའ་སྤེན་པ་ (gza' spen ba)||Penba||Saturn|
Nyima "Sun", Dawa "Moon" and Lhakpa "Mercury" are common personal names for people born on Sunday, Monday or Wednesday respectively.
During the time of the Yarlung dynasty, years were named after the 12 animals common in the Chinese zodiac. The month were named according to the four seasons of a year and the year started in summer.
The translation of the Kalachakratantra in the second half of the 11th century CE marked the beginning of a complete change for the calendar in Tibet. The first chapter of this book contains among others a description of an Indian astronomical calendar and descriptions of the calculations to determine the length of the five planets and the sun and moon eclipses.
According to the Buddhist tradition, the original teachings of the Kalacakra were taught by Buddha himself. Nevertheless, it took more than two hundred years until the Kalacakra calendar was officially introduced as the official Tibetan calendar by the ruler Drogön Chögyal Phagpa in the second half of the 13th century. Although this calendar was changed many times during the subsequent centuries, it kept its original character as a luni-solar calendar of Indian origin.
Bhumchu (Bhum is a pot, Chum is water) is a Buddhist festival, which on the Tibetan lunar calendar is held on the 14th and 15th day of the first month, which is between February and March on the Gregorian calendar. The Bhum or Sacred vase, according to Zigpo Lingpa, is made out of various kinds of sacred soil, water and five kinds of precious jewels found in sacred lands of India, Odiyana and Zahor. In Sikkim the Tashiding Monastery is recognized as a sacred place. It is believed that this place, Dakkar Tashiding in the center of four sacred caves, Sharchog Bephug in the east, Khandozangphu in the south, Dechenphug in the west and Lhari Nyingphug in the north, is meant to free you from the suffering of hell. At the start of the year the vase is opened and the Lama or monk determines the future. “If the water is to the brim, it foretells a year in which peace and prosperity will prevail. If the water is over the brim and is spilling, it signifies a year with natural disaster and disturbances. If the water level is low or almost dry it signifies famine.” The celebration of “The Holy Water Vase” started under the rule of King Trisong Deutsonin Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava.” It is believed that the water overflowed from the vase as a sign of a good omen and there was an earthquake. The four guardian deities of Dharma and the gods of thirty three heavens showered flowers from the sky.” This ritual is one of the holiest in Sikkim. From midnight until the next day thousands are seen waiting to receive the holy water. “A part of the holy water is distributed amongst the gathering of devotes and the pot is replenished with river water and sealed at the end of the festival to be opened only in the during next Bumchu festival.” It is said that by taking a drop of the Bumchu water enlightenment is achieved and all of the evil spirits and distress are removed. It is said one would somehow attain a form of Buddhahood or be born at a higher ranking in the next life. In 2016, it will be on March 19-20.Chemrey Monastery
Chemrey Monastery or Chemrey Gompa is a 1664 Buddhist monastery, approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of Leh, Ladakh, northern India. It belongs to the Drugpa monastic order. It was founded in 1664 by the Lama Tagsang Raschen and dedicated to King Sengge Namgyal.
The monastery has a notable high Padmasambhava statue. It also contains a valuable collection of scriptures, with title pages in silver and the text in gold letters. The monastery is also a venue for the festival of sacred dances which takes place on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar every year.
The monastery comprises a number of shrines, two assembly halls (Du-Khang) and a Lama temple (Lha-Khang). The main attraction of the monastery is the one storey high statue of Padmasambhava. Another big attraction is the 29 volume scripture written in silver and golden letters.
The monastery holds every year the Chemrey Angchok festival of sacred dances. It takes place on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of the Tibetan calendar.Chotrul Duchen
Chötrul Düchen, also known as Chonga Choepa or the Butter Lamp Festival, is one of the four Buddhist festivals commemorating four events in the life of the Buddha, according to Tibetan traditions. Chötrul Düchen closely follows Losar, the Tibetan New Year. It takes place on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Tibetan calendar during the full moon, which is called Bumgyur Dawa. The first fifteen days of the year celebrate the fifteen days during which the historical Buddha displayed miracles for his disciples so as to increase their devotion.Chotrul Duchen, meaning "Great Day of Miraculous Manifestations", is one of the four great holy days observed by Tibetan Buddhists, always occurring on the Fifteenth day of the first lunar Month in the Tibetan calendar. During this time, it is believed that the effects of both positive and negative actions are multiplied ten million times.
To commemorate the occasion, Tibetans make lamps, traditionally of yak butter, called butter lamps, in the shapes of flowers, trees, birds, and other auspicious symbols. They also create elaborate displays for the lamps in their homes and in public spaces, sometimes erecting structures as large as a building. All the lanterns are lit in celebration on the fifteenth day of the month.The 2018 date is Monday the 16th of July.Dosmoche
Dosmoche is a festival celebrated in Ladakh, India. It is celebrated in Leh, Likir and Diskit monasteries. It is the last festival of New Year Celebrations, other one is Losar. The two-day Dosmoche festival is a gazetted holiday for Leh district and Zanskar Sub Division. Dosmoche is also known as the "Festival of Scapegoat" and is one of Ladakh's most popular prayer festivals.Drupka Teshi
Drug-pa Tse-zhi is a Buddhist festival celebrated to observe Buddha's first preaching of the "Noble Truths" at the deer park in Sarnath. It falls on the fourth day of the sixth month in the Tibetan calendar, (around August or July).Galdan Namchot
Galdan Namchot is a festival celebrated in Tibet, Mongolia and many regions of Himalaya and particularly in Ladakh, India. It is to commemorate the birth as well as parinirvana (death) and the Buddhahood of Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419 AD), a famous Scholar/teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Galdan Namchot also marks the beginning of the new year celebrations in Ladakh.Lhabab Duchen
Lhabab Düchen is one of the four Buddhist festivals commemorating four events in the life of the Buddha, according to Tibetan traditions. Lhabab Düchen occurs on the 22nd day of the ninth lunar month according to Tibetan calendar and widely celebrated in Tibet and Bhutan. The festival is also celebrated in other Buddhist Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos where it is celebrated a few weeks before the Tibetan and Bhutanese version.
Lhabab Duchen is a Buddhist festival celebrated to observe the Buddha's descent from the Trāyastriṃśa heaven down to earth.
According to legend, the Buddha ascended the Trāyastriṃśa heaven temporarily at the age of 41, in order to give teachings to benefit the gods in that desire realm, and to repay the kindness of his mother by liberating her from Samsara.
He was exhorted by his disciple and representative Maudgalyayana to return, and after a long debate and under a Full Moon agreed to return. He returned to earth a week later by a special triple ladder prepared by Viswakarma, the god of machines. This event is considered to be one of the eight great deeds of the Buddha.
On Lhabab Duchen, the effects of positive or negative actions are multiplied ten million times. It is part of Tibetan Buddhist tradition to engage in virtuous activities and prayer on this day.Losar
Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར་, Wylie: lo-gsar; "new year") is a festival in Tibetan Buddhism. The holiday is celebrated on various dates depending on location (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan) tradition. The holiday is a new year's festival, celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. In 2018,
the new year commenced on the 16th of February and celebrations will run until the 18th of the same month. It also commenced the Year of the Male Earth Dog.The variation of the festival in Nepal is called Lhochhar and is observed about eight weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar.Matho Monastery
Matho Monastery, or Matho Gonpa or Mangtro Monastery or Mangtro Gonpa, from the Tibetan "mang" that means "many" and "tro" that means "happiness", is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located 26 kilometres southeast of Leh in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, on the banks of the Indus River. The village of Matho is located at the mouth of a deep gorge running out of the Zanskar Range and across the Indus. It is directly opposite Thikse Monastery.
Matho and Skidmang in the eastern Ladakh (130km to the east of Leh) are the only example in Ladakh of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Because Matho does not lie on the main highway from Leh, it sees fewer visitors than Hemis, Thiske or Shey. However, it is known to outsiders for its annual Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival, held on the 14th and 15th days of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. During this festival, two oracles, known as "Rongtsan", are said to inhabit for a few hours the body of two monks. The purpose of these oracles is to attempt to predict the fortunes of the local village communities for the coming year. Three monks that are to be the oracles vehicles are chosen every three years by the monks of the monastery for a duration of 3 years. The first year the monks will have to meditate for 9 months before the festival. The following two years the meditation will last 2 months. When the three monks come out from the retreat, all the monks will gather together to form a circle. The names of the three monks will be placed in a bowl. The bowl is then sealed and passed from one monk to the next until one name comes out from the bowl - this monk is chosen by the monastery's protector to perform the oracle.
Matho is also home to a collection of thangkas dating back to the 14th century.Nyatri Tsenpo
Nyatri Tsenpo (Wylie: gnya' khri btsan po "King of the Throne on the Shoulders") was a king of Tibet. He was a legendary progenitor of the so-called "Yarlung dynasty". His reign is said to have begun in 127 BC and in traditional Tibetan history, he was the first ruler of the kingdom. The Dunhuang chronicles report that he is said to have descended from heaven onto the sacred mountain Yarlha Shampo. Due to certain physical peculiarities – his hands were webbed, and his eyelids closed from the bottom and not the top – he was hailed as a god by locals, and they took him as their king.According to Tibetan mythology, the first Tibetan building, Yungbulakang Palace, was erected for the king. The year of his enthronement marks the first year of the Tibetan calendar; Losar, the Tibetan New Year, is celebrated in his honor. Traditions hold that the first kings were immortal, and would be pulled up to heaven by the cord that had first deposited them on earth. This is what is said to have happened to Nyatri Tsenpo as well.
In Tibetan Nyatri Tsenpo means "Neck-Enthroned King".Phensang Monastery
Phensang Monastery is a Buddhist monastery of the Nyingmapa Order in Sikkim, India, 9 kilometres north of Gangtok. It was established in 1721 during the time of Jigme Pawo.
Phensang, which has about 300 monks, hosts an annual festival on the 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan Calendar when sacred dances are performed, two days before the Sikkimese New Year.Phyang Monastery
Phyang Monastery, Phyang (or Phiyang) Gompa is a Buddhist monastery located in Fiang village, just 15 or 16 kilometres west of Leh in Ladakh, northern India. It was established in 1515.Public holidays in Bhutan
Public holidays in Bhutan consist of both national holidays and local festivals or tshechus. While national holidays are observed throughout Bhutan, tsechus are only observed in their areas. Bhutan uses its own calendar, a variant of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar. Because it is a lunisolar calendar, dates of some national holidays and most tshechus change from year to year. For example, the new year, Losar, generally falls between February and March.Spituk Monastery
Spituk Monastery, also better as Spituk Gompa or Pethup Gompa, is a Buddhist monastery in Leh district, Ladakh, northern India. 8 kilometres from Leh. The site of Spituk was blessed by the Arhat Nyimagung. It was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od when he came to Maryul in the 11th Century. He introduced the monastic community. When Lotsewa Rinchen Zangpo (Translator) came to that place he said that an exemplary religious community would arise there and so the monastery was called spituk (exemplary). During the time of Dharma raja Gragspa Bum-Ide the monastery was restored by Lama Lhawang Lodos and the stainless order of Tsonkhapa was introduced and it has remained intact as such till present. Founded as a Red Hat institution, the monastery was taken over by the Yellow Hat sect in the 15th century.
The monastery contains 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali (unveiled during the annual Spitok festival).
Every year the Gustor Festival is held at Spituk from the 27th to 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar.Stongdey Monastery
Stongdey Monastery, often written Stongde, Stongday, Tonday or Thonde, is a flourishing Buddhist monastery in Zanskar, Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, approximately 18 km north of Padum, on the road to Zangla, India.The gompa was founded in 1052 by Naropa's disciple, the famous translator Lama Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097). It was taken over by the Gelugpa about four centuries later and became dedicated to Je Tsongkhapa.It is the second largest monastic institution in Zanskar, with a community of about 60 Gelukpa monks. Every year the Gustor Festival is held on the 28th and 29th day in the eleventh month of the Tibetan calendar.
There are seven temples in all. The Tshogs-khang is decorated with exquisite painting including some with deities on a black background outlined in gold.Takthok Monastery
Takthok Monastery (also known as Thag Thog or Thak Thak) is a Buddhist monastery in Sakti village in Ladakh, northern India, located approximately 46 kilometres east of Leh. The name Takthok, literally meaning 'rock-roof' was named because both its roof as well as walls are made up of rock. It belongs to the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and approximately 55 lamas reside there. It is the only Nyingma monastery in Ladakh.The monastery was founded around the mid-16th century during the reign of Tshewang Namgyal on a mountainside around a cave in which Padmasambhava is said to have meditated in the 8th century. Every year on the 9th and 10th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar, celebrations which include sacred dances are held.Tibetan astrology
Tibetan astrology (Tibetan: དཀར་རྩིས, Wylie: dkar rtsis) is a traditional discipline of the Tibetan peoples that has dialogued with both Chinese astrology and Indian astrology. Tibetan astrology is one of the 'Ten Sciences' (Wylie: rig-pa'i gnas bcu; Sanskrit: daśavidyā) in the enumeration honoured by this cultural tradition.Tibetan astronomy
The Tantra of Kalachakra is the basis of Tibetan astronomy.
It explains some phenomena in a similar manner as modern astronomy science. Hence, Sun eclipse is described as the Moon passing between the Sun and the Earth.In 1318, the 3rd Karmapa received vision of Kalachakra which he used to introduce a revised system of astronomy and astrology named the "Tsurphu Tradition of Astrology" (Tibetan: Tsur-tsi) which is still used in the Karma Kagyu school for the calculation of the Tibetan calendar.Tibetan festivals
In Tibet, the Tibetan calendar lags approximately four to six weeks behind the solar calendar. For example, the Tibetan First Month usually falls in February, the Fifth Month usually falls in June or early July and the Eight Month usually falls in September.
|In wide use|