Sonam Lhosar

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Tamang New Year

Lho means year, and Sar means new. The word Lhosar means New Year or beginning of the new year. The Tamang ethnic community celebrates the Sonam Lhosar. Sonam Lhosar is the most important and the biggest festival of the Tamang ethnic group. The Tamang community celebrates it widely in Nepal,  North East India, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The Tamang people have their own culture, language, dress, and social tradition. Therefore, this makes them different from other ethnic groups. Besides Tamang people are generally Buddhist by religion. The word Tamang is made up of two words, Ta(Horse) and Mang(Trader). It is believed that they were related to the business of horse-trading or riding.  Some view it differently and therefore consider them as Horse warriors.

Sonam Lhosar falls on different dates each year according to the ancient Tibetan lunar calendar. Moreover, the New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. As a result, it falls on Magh Sukla Pratipada, according to Nepali Calendar. And early January to mid-February in the English calendar. Also, on the day of Lhosar, they decorate Buddhist monasteries and Stupas with colorful prayer flags. In particular, people visit the monasteries and stupas in their traditional costumes for ceremonial rituals. During the Sonam Lhosar festival people clean and decorate their houses. The Tamang people celebrate this festival with great excitement. They sing and dance to the tune of the Damphu with feasts and family gatherings to welcome the “New Year”. Tamang songs are known as Tamang Selo. There are songs of humor and wit, philosophical thoughts, and of joy and sorrow.

Tamang has a tradition of counting the year with the association of symbols of 12 different animals. Each year represents each animal. It starts with Rat and ends on Boar. Rat(Jiwa), Ox(lang), tiger(tag), rabbit(hey), dragon(duk), snake(dul), horse(Ta), Sheep(luk) Monkey(Te) Rooster(Jya) Dog(Khi) Pig/Boar(Phag). The cycle will repeat once it is complete.

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