Everyone is still lingering in the feverish excitement of the Tibetan New Year (Losar). The offices, although open, still carry a deserted look with most of the staff yet to return from their Losar holidays.
As I was wondering what I must write this Monday as part of our weekly feature on ‘Tibetan’s Life in Exile’, I was struck by my grandmother’s early morning enthusiasm to attend the Monlam Chenmo prayers and teachings taking place at the main temple.
My grandma, a devout Buddhist, woke me up early in the morning today to get ready for the ongoing Monlam Chenmo prayers. As usual, I was a bit lazy and reluctant to get out of the cozy blankets, but at the same time, I was curious to see the teachings and capture some candid shots of the ‘Great Prayer Festival’ what we Tibetans call as Monlam Chenmo.
Monlam Chenmo is a five-day prayer festival hosted every year in Dharamshala. Examinations for the highest ‘Lharampa Geshe’ (degree in Buddhist philosophy in the Geluk tradition) are held during this prayer festival. Monks would perform traditional Tibetan Buddhist dances (cham) and huge ritual offering cakes (tormas) were made as part of this festival. When I visited the Tsuglagkhang (main temple) today, the monks and nun were listening to a teaching on the Jataka tales conducted by Venerable Thupten Tenzin, abbot of the Gyuto tantric monastery.
The Jataka tales are a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates. Often, Jātaka tales include an extensive cast of characters who interact and get into various kinds of trouble – whereupon the Buddha character intervenes to resolve all the problems and bring about peace and harmony.
Monlam Chenmo falls annually from the 11-15th day of the 1st Tibetan month in Dharamshala. The event was established in 1409 by Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Geluk tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
The main purpose of the ‘Great Prayer Festival is to pray for the long life of all the holy Gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of the Dharma in the mind of all sentient beings, and for world peace. The communal prayers, offered with strong faith and devotion, help to overcome obstacles to peace and generate conducive conditions for everyone to live in harmony.
After taking a few shots, my colleague and I came out of the temple and saw a lady selling momos ( steamed dumpling with veg or non-veg filling). I was interested to know more about her. So I took a photo of her handing out momos to her customers.
So, next week I would like to feature her in the next episode of my photo series, in an effort to present the story of a Tibetan street vendor in exile. Stay tuned!!!