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Religious Ceremony

Primitive Ceremony
This primitive religious ceremony is used either in the indigenous religion, Bon or the later Buddhism in Tibet. Except for the blood sacrifice, the ceremony continues to be a local custom in the daily life of Tibetans.

Blood sacrifice, Tibetan religious ceremony

Burning aromatic plants is a must in any case. It generally involves burning cypress or other leaves to please the deities. For blood sacrifices, offerings of animals like sheep, oxen and horses have been made to the deities. Because of the forbiddance of killing in Buddhism, this is no longer done and taken place by other ways. Chemar, a box containing Tsampa or other grains and stuck with Butter Sculptures , is the traditional offering to deities and is still popular today. Tibetans are also inclined to offer pure waters, mandalas, butter lamps, fruits, fragrant plants and jewels when worshipping. In addition, they also use embroideries, silks and other prized cloths to decorate Thangka , statues, sutras and protect the outside stupas. All of these practices are witness to their piety. The dance performed in the religious ceremony is called ' Changmo Dance ' , or 'Sorcerer's Dance'. Its purpose is to exorcise ghosts, and it is performed by lamas, wearing masks and robes decorated with colorful strips of cloths and weapons.

Changmo Dance, Tibet religious ceremony

Popular Religious Activities
Tibetan Buddhism has now become the dominant religion in Tibet. Average Tibetans have many religious activities to satisfy their faith, to name just a few: reciting sutras, murmuring mantras, hanging prayer flags, turning prayer wheels, circumambulating, worshipping and prostrating themselves. In the monasteries of Tibet, apart from the regular sutra reciting and debating, a religious festival will be held almost every month, which often attracts many locals to come to worship and see their performances. These festivals have now become the most important religious activities for both locals and lamas. The following are some of the most important religious festivals in Tibet.

Religious Festivals
Date (Tibetan Calendar)
Highlights of religious celebrations
Great Prayer Festival (Monlam)
Jan.4 – Jan.25
Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa, initiated the prayer ceremony to memorialize Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism in 1409.
1. Jokang Temple: Sutra debating competition for the application of the highest Buddhist degree.
2. Changmo Dance
3. Parading ceremony of Statue of Maitreya, or Buddha of the Future (Barkhor Street)
Butter Lantern Festival
Jan. 15
Tsong Khapa offered some Butter Sculptures to Sakyamuni in 1409.
1. Worshipping in the temples on the day
2. Displaying Butter Lamps and Sculptures in Barkhor Street in the night
Walk Around Mountain
(Buddha Bathing Festival)
Apr. 8
To memorize the birth of Sakyamuni and pray for harvest in one way.
1. Circumambulating around temples, mountains, cities, etc.
2. Performances of singing, dancing, Tibetan Opera...
(Wide spreading in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan)
Saka Dawa Festival
(Full Moon Day of the Saga Constellation)
Apr. 15
The supposed day of Sakyamuni's birth, ordination and nirvana
1. Burning aromatic plants
2. Circumambulation
3. Benefaction
Harvest Festival (Ongkor Festival)
(Time of the ripening of grains)
To pray for Harvest
1. Burning aromatic plants
2. Changmo Dance
3. Circumambulating around the field
Shoton Festival
Late June or Early July
Yogurt banquet for the monks and nuns after their food forbiddance before 17th century
1. Tibetans offer yogurts in temples
2. Tibetan Opera performances
3. Buddha Unveiling in Drepung Monastery, Lhasa
Butter Lamp Festival
Oct. 25
The day of the Nirvana of Tsong Khapa
1. Every house and temple burn many butter lamps
2. Circumambulating
3. Burning aromatic plants in temples
Great Prayer Festival of Winter
Dec. 23 – Dec. 29
To show the revival of Sakya Kingdom in 1474 originally
Changmo Dance in Sakya Monastery, Shigatse
Ghost Exorcising Festival
Dec. 29
To pray for good fortune in the next new year
Changmo Dance in Potala Palace

To learn more about Tibetan Festivals and their relative dates on the International Calendar, please refer to Festivals and Tibetan Calendar in this website.

Comments and Questions

thankyou :')
this really helped me with my geography project. x


6/11/2010 3:50:00 AM


Asked by phoebe x (Uruguay)

I was wondering if you had any information on specific rituals performed prior or at death?
Thank you!


4/28/2009 11:00:00 PM


Asked by Masha (Australia)

Last month I was in Tibet. I have seen a religious ceremony and wonder if you know wich one it was.
There is a picture (second)on this site under the tab "religious Ceremony" (with the skeletons).
It was on the second of october (beginning of august Tibetan Calender).
I hope you can help me.


10/20/2008 10:55:00 AM


Asked by Jacqueline Janssen (Netherlands)

The picture you referred to shows the Changmo Dance. As you described, if dancing with skeleton, it should be called Dance of Skeletons, which is usually performed to show the power of deities and the joy of goblins.

However, there is no Tibetan festival on 2nd October, the date that you mentioned. So we can only tell you that the ceremony you saw might be a kind of worship or just a performance for audience.

10/20/2008 8:34:00 PM