Khata, The Tibetan Traditional Offering Scarf
Khata is one of the essential pieces of cloth in Tibetan culture. The term Khata is an informal and the formal term for the traditional Tibetan scarf is call Jel-Dhar. The most common color of the Khata is white to signify the purity of the intention of the offerer, with no negative thoughts or motives behind it. There are other colors use in Khata like Blue, red, green and Yellow. It looks like a long scarf, and it has auspicious signs and Mantras inscribed on it. It is an essential part on our life and would use for all the occasion from birth to marriage and even death. It is a sign of love and respect for others. The offering of Khata is one of the most well-known customs in Tibetan culture. When you arrive in Tibet for your Tibet travel, you will be offered the Khata on arrival or departure from Lhasa or Tibet.
The size and fabric quality of khata can be different for the choice of presenter. The most elegant one is made of the pure silks, and the most simple one is made of simple cotton. It is not the matter of the quality of the cloth, but then it is the matter of sincerity of the offerer.
History of Khata
There are many different schools of thought about the origin of the Khata. The most popular one is from the Han Dynasty. During the Han dynasty, they send diplomatic mission the western region. The diplomats pass through Tibet and present silk roll to the leader of the local chief. Those times silks were ceremonial offering, and it symbolizes the pure friendship. This etiquette of showing friendliness and wishes was practice in the local tribe. Later the new custom is passed to the central plans and Yarlung river valley.
Another school believes the custom of Khata is Tibetans own development. During the time of early Tibetan Tubo dynasty especially during the time of King Songtsen Gampo, King would present honoring the gift of the skin of a prized Animal to anyone for a good job. But after the arrival in Buddhism in Tibet in the 8th century. The Sages like Guru Rinpoche and Shantarakshita discourage giving animal skins, as it required the killing of animals for their skin. In India, there is a tradition of giving offerings of sets of new cloth to the master. The tradition of presenting animal skin is replaced with expensive silk brocade from China under the influence of Indian culture or master. Then it gradually changes into the current khata culture.
According to the third school of thought. This culture prevalent in the pre-Buddhist nomadic communities of Tibet. They said the culture of Khata came from Kanak culture. In the Kanak Culture, we would put a pinch of tsampa on the shoulder of the guest that visit for work or visit to signify the host sincerely of their wishes of Welcome, respect, and farewell. Tsampa is put on the right shoulder for the men and left on the women. They also put the beautiful display of symbols and greeting on the floor to welcome high lama and officials. This tradition gradually became the Khata culture,
How to offer Khata
Offering Khata though is a very simple gesture, but in our tradition, it has its own significance and protocol governing this tradition.
Here are some protocols/etiquette in offering Khatas
1. Khata must be clean and wrinkle free which is why we used the new one on all the occasions nowadays. But in old time we will take extra care to make sure it is clean and wrinkle-free.
2. Khata must be properly folded. When folding the khata, it must be first fold in half width-wise. It represents the interdependence of our existence. After this fold, we will fold the Khata in fan effect and roll up to end the folding. When presenting the Khata, we must open it infant of the receiver. While holding khata to offer, you must hold it with your open palm. The open edge should face the person you are giving, and the folded end should be towards you. This represents your pure open heart, with no negative thoughts or motives in the offering.
3. Bow before the receiver.
4. If the receiver is higher than you, offer it on their hand, and if the receiver is of your equal or lower level, you can place khata around their neck.
Purpose of offering Khata
- Respect/ Gratitude.
For high lamas, teacher dignitaries and elders. When you give them Khata, it should be presented with folded hands places near your forehead, and bow before them in Humble. You will never put khata over the neck of someone higher, and older than you. If the receiver is the elder and more senior than you, you will most like to get the khata back to you as a blessing. Special from the high lama, the returned khata is considered a blessing and will always be kept with them. We also have the custom of putting khatas over the statues, Thangka painting, portrait of reincarnated Masters and over the altar. These are to show our devotion and aspiration from them. We also put the Khata on the prayer flags before hanging them. It is a sign of purity and sincerity of our prayer, and it is also an offering to gods for swift accomplishments of prayers and wishes.
We also use Khata when we visit some one’s home after the death of near one. Khata is laid over the body, here represent our prayers for deceased swift rebirth and free from suffering in after death stages.
- Affections and celebration.
Khata can also be used for special events like birthday, new year, farewell, marriage, welcome, honor celebration and any other day to day event in one’s life journey. During these occasions, we will offer khatas.
I-Tibet travel and Tours is fully committed to responsible and Sustainable tourism practice in Tibet. Our privilege to be able to host you in Tibet also makes our responsibility in protecting nature and contributing back communities.
As a Local Tibetan travel agency in Lhasa. Our staffs are 100% local Tibetan tourism professionals. Additionally, We only use local Tibetan guides, other tours crews, and local business. 100% of the travel money goes to locals. Besides, We use 3% of the net profit into Environmental and social initiatives.
Being Tibetan, We know how vital the Tibetan environment is for the entire world. Mountains, glacier, and rivers are all cherished in our culture. We do our best to reduce the environmental impact of your tours in Tibet.
Following are Our ways:
a) No Small plastic bottles in the tour
All the drinking water are provided in the bigger container. So all visitors are asked to bring his/her own water bottle. In this way, we reduce hundreds and thousands of small plastic bottles. All the bigger containers are provided back to the manufacturer for reuse.
b) Incentives for practice
Incentives are given to guide and drivers. Who follow our strict directories on ethical practice towards sustainable and responsible tourism practice.
c) Staff Training every winter
Winter is a low season in Tibet tourism. We provide skill training required for the practice of Responsible and Sustainable tourism practice, first Aids and emergency first responder training. One of our managers is certified Humanity Supply Chain management by fritz institute. We work closely with individuals from institute like Tibet Eco Travel initiatives and Local Tibet Red Cross society and other NGOs.
d) Tree Plantation
Some portion of the tour money are save for our 1000 Tree plantation project. We will plant trees when we will have enough funds.
e) Smaller group size
All our tours are a small group to reduce environmental Impact. Since traveling in a smaller group has less impact on committed in an area than a big group. Therefore all our tour groups are small.
f) Trekking tours and environmental care in the wilderness of Tibet
During your trekking Tours, you will be walking across a very fragile ecosystem. We do take extra care in our trekking tours preventing environmental effects. Following are how are take care of our environment our trekking tours.
1: We nothing leave mother behind.
We make sure we take all our rubbish and leave nothing behind.
2: We protect the grassland
A little destruction of Tibet’s fragile environment is irreversible. So, in the trekking tours, we will not make drainage surrounding your tent. Instead, we will provide trekkers with a better tent with bathtub style floors which prevent water from getting into the tent. We don’t put a small tent toilet. Even if we try to put the grass back, it is not the same. So when you are answering your nature called please enjoy the view.
3: Collecting the garbage along the way.
We have a saying in Tibet, “if you can’t help, don’t harm.” Here is our helping part. We always have extra yaks carrying the Garbages, our yak men will be collecting while waiting for the clients at the campsite. Yak man walks faster than all, and they have free time at the camp. While cook prepares for meals and drinks, We pay yaks men’s incentives in collecting the rubbish around the camp.
I-Tibet travel and tours, identify its self as a social enterprise. For this, we dedicate 3% of our annual net profit to Social and environmental projects. Every winter we buy winter clothes for small children and donate to schools. In this way, besides donating winter cloth, we are also encouraging them to go to school.
It is important to make our guest understand Local Culture, Beliefs, and Ethics. Hence it will make it more comfortable during Our special tour arrangements. Like, your home visit, culture programs, and our others.