Ongkhor Festival འོང་སྐོར་
Ongkhor is one of the most important festivals for Tibetan farming communities in a year. This festival is the celebrations to bring good luck for the annual harvesting from the Farmland. The festival is normally celebrated in the seventh month of Tibetan Lunar calendar. If you visit Tibet around the time of this celebration you will most like to see lots of Tibetan Dress in their traditional dress and circumambulating around the farmland of the Village.
The term Ongkhor mean circumambulating the farmland. It is said the tradition of Ongkhor is started by a Tibetan King who wants to place the utmost importance to the farming communities in Tibet. Each village will have their different date for the festival. As there will be planing the crops differently according to the local astrological calculation. But Gyama Village (The birthplace of Songtsen Gampo) will be the first to celebrate. As this village is considered the Number one Village in Tibet for the birth of our great king. The celebration will then spread throughout Tibet.
The purpose of the Ongkhor festival
The primary purpose of this festival is to bring good luck for the current harvest. We believe by bringing the holiest and main relic of the village and the volumes of translation of Tengyur ( translation of Treatises of Buddhism) and Kangyur ( Translation of word of Buddha) around the Farmland will bring the good luck charm to the harvest of the Particular year.
The Practice of Ongkhor festival.
The Festival was begun by gathering for people from each household until the number of group member becomes 100. All the household represent will dress in elegant local traditional dress. Everyone will have an Arrow dressed with beautiful colored cloth. We call it Dadhar.
Once when everyone is gathered in the center of the village. The village leader would assign what will be carried on each individual back. The village leader would ask the revered monks from the nearby temples and Monastery to join along with the main relic of the monastery and the Kangyur and Tengyur scripture from the monastery.
After things are assigned to carry. they will circumambulate the entire village including the farms belonging to the Village. In the line, the first one will be revered monk from the monastery followed by men (Usually the village headmen) Carrying the main relic of the monastery. If the relic is big and heavy like the statue of Buddha. He would carry the cloth of statue. After this, they will be someone carrying the bagful of grains, represent the local produce. After this followed by every one carry the scriptures.
On one hand, they will carry a Dadhar, The decorate arrow. While circumambulating the entire village, They will shout say Yang Ku Sho.( གཡང་འཁུར་ཤོག་) meaning bring us prosperity.
After the circumambulation is over. Everyone will sit near a-flied and starts to dance and sing. The group dance is very common. every other member of the village will join the party by bringing the food and drinks to the spot.
After the while, the head men and the monk will return to monastery along with other elderly members of the village to return the things borrowed from the monastery and offer the first product of the year to the altar of the Monastery.
The traditional celebration of the Ongkhor festival is just for a day. Yet now, the celebration is more elegant and last for at least three days. There is a lot of inclusion of other forms of traditional sport and entertainment into the festival. The most common activities during the ongkhor festival are Tibetan Opera show, Songs and Dances, and another form of competitions like stone lifting, Horse racing, Shooting, and wrestling.
In some region of Tibet. while going to the Kora around the village, They will dress up in a different role in the Cham dance, Tibet opera. We might see them wearing a different kind of mask.