Kongpo New Year (Kongpo Losar) People in the Kongpo area celebrate an earlier New Year Festival than other Tibetan areas. It is on the first day of October in Tibetan calendar and is the most representative festival of the Kongpo area. Legend has it that the Kongpo people had celebrated the New Year on the same day as other Tibetan areas, i.e. January 1 st in Tibetan calendar, and it was in the seventh century that the date was changed. This was a time of conflict between certain northern tribes and the Kongpos. With the New Year celebrations imminent, soldiers were reluctant to leave their hometown for fear of missing the festivities. As an inducement to them, the king decided to bring forward the New Year celebrations. The Kongpos successfully drove their aggressors from their hometown and the custom of an earlier New Year Festival was retained as a commemoration of the great event.
An interesting custom of the Kongpo New Year is the feast provided for dogs. On New Year's Eve, every Kongpo family is supposed to prepare a sumptuous feast for their dogs. That includes cuo, a meal made of Tsamba, and beef, mutton, fruits, yak butter, etc, in the belief that that dogs' food choices are determined by God and able to foretell the fortunes of the coming year. By eating cuo the dogs foretell a good crop harvest, butters represent prosperity in animal husbandry while fruits symbolize productive orchards. It is considered bad luck if dogs tend to go for the meat or bark and break the plates. On New Year's Eve, people also drive 'ghosts' out of the house by throwing cobbles into corners and pouring chang onto torches. Having shut the door to cut off the ghosts' way back, the family then gather to roast a food made of yak butter, cheese crumbs and wheat flour. The more that is eaten the better as it will overload ghosts and so prevent them from carrying people away in the middle of the night.
The first day of the New Year is for making offerings to the Harvest Goddess. The family bring offerings and chang to their most productive field, and then erect a pine branch upon which to hang prayer flags. Juniper incenses being burned, people sing and dance to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. On the second day the men compete in whistling arrow shooting contests*, horse racing and wresting, etc and the night is spent singing, dancing and drinking chang around campfires. Large commodity fairs are held during the festival in recent years, with a wide range of Tibetan goods on sale.
Whistling arrow shooting contests: typical of the Kongpo area, the contests have a history of over 1,500 years and are notable throughout Tibet for the exquisite and amazing whistling arrows. The arrowheads are pierced so as to make sounds when the arrows are shot. Held on festivals and harvest celebrations, the competitions are usually accompanied by songs and dances.
Nyangpu Lhasu Festival 'Nyangpu Lhasu' in Tibetan means the Nyang people (people who live by the Nyang River) pray for a sacred gem. It is one of the traditional festivals of Bon, falling on August 10 th in every Year of the Horse in the Tibetan calendar. This custom has a history of over 600 years, and relates to a special gem that had been enshrined in the Kongpo area and acquired through trickery by neighboring tribes. Following the loss of the precious gem, the Kongpo people suffered from years of famines and plagues. The Kongpos later turned to a Bonpo, who told them that a ritual of prayers on the day on which the gem was taken would bring it back. The sacred gem was finally returned and the festival commemorates the event.
The festival includes rituals, dances and horse racing contests, all of which are to prevent evils and to ensure good harvests. As one of the most influential festivals among the Bonpos, it is not only for the Bon followers of the Kongpo areas but attracts the attendance of many people from other parts of Tibet.
Eagle Festival This festival commemorates the first abbot of the Sagya Genqen Monastery, a time-honored Bonpo monastery on Mt. Bon-ri . It is said that when the prestigious master passed away, a huge eagle flew from nowhere, guiding the body until it was settled in a newly-built memorial pagoda. Once the ritual was finished, the eagle circled around the pagoda three times and then left. The Bon believers henceforth regarded the eagle as an incarnation of the master and on every April 13 th (the day on which the pagoda was built) to April 15 th in the Tibetan calendar, there are religious rituals and the Kongpo dance in the monastery in memory of the master. Offerings are made to the eagle, which is believed to make a yearly return to the festival.
Saka Dawa Festival Every April 15 th on the Saka Dawa Festival, it is the custom for Bonpos in the Kongpo area to walk around Mt. Bon-ri while Buddhists walk around the Basum Lake . The directions in which they circumambulate are converse: Bonpos in anti-clockwise whereas Buddhists in clockwise, so are the prayer wheels. Religious rituals are also carried out during the festival.