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Tibetans drawn to Lhasa monastery for festival ritual

08-20-2012 11:40 BJT Special Report:This is Tibet |

Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans traveled to a 15th-century monastery on the outskirts of Tibet's capital of Lhasa on Friday to participate in a Buddhist ritual that marks the start of the annual Shoton festival.

Devout Tibetan Buddhists and curious tourists walked up a mountain near the Drepung Monastery at daybreak for the sacred "sunning of the Buddha" ceremony.

As it began, a 500-square-meter painting depicting Buddha was unveiled on the mountain slope. The Tibetans walked around the giant painting, throwing ceremonial white scarves on it and chanting. Some prayed with hands clasped at chest height, others prostrated.

The "sunning of the Buddha" is the most significant part of the week-long Shoton festival. Organizers estimated that more than 200,000 people turned out at Drepung for this year's ceremony.

Worshipers came in endless streams to see the event, with some traveling hundreds of kilometers to attend.

"I saw the big Thangka (painting) today! I saw it! And my whole family is gathering here together. I'm so happy and we've come a long way," said Tsewang, a Tibetan from neighboring Qinghai province.

The Shoton festival dates back to the 11th century and was originally a religious occasion, when local people would offer yogurt to monks who had finished their meditation retreats.

Since the 17th century, the festival has become a celebration featuring both religious rituals and civil entertainment. It is now considered one of the most important festivals on the Tibetan calendar. More than 900,000 people visited Lhasa for last year's festival.



Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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