Garma Ri Gi or the Bathing Festival is a mass activity throughout Tibet that takes place on the 7th month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar when Venus appears in the sky. It is an annual week-long festival with special Tibetan characteristics. For seven days, from morning to evening, many Tibetans of all ages go to the rivers to take a holy bath. The rivers are full of people as young and old people and families all participate. They take this bath during the end of summer because they believe the water at this time has a special effect. It is thought to be sweet, pure, cool, and soft and not harmful to throat and stomach. It is also a time for Tibetans to wash their clothes. So a good time to catch Tibetan Buddhists doing a traditional festival activity is during their Tibetan Bathing Festival during the week including Sept. 14, 2011.
The festival activities have practical, religious and social purposes. Along with taking a bath, the Tibetans also wash their clothes. They set up tents on the banks of the rivers and streams and wash before the winter comes. It is thought that bathing at this time brings good luck, washes away evil omens or illnesses, and brings healing. It was traditionally believed that people should not bathe casually. It is a religious purification ritual. After the holy bath, everyone enjoy a “lingka” or picnic since social life is a very important part of festivals in Tibet. Most festivals were in the past meant to teach the illiterate people through dance, theater and chants their religious teachings and their society’s history. So the festivals are important religious occasions, but they are also seen as a way to socialize with each other. During this festival, the Tibetans turn bathing and washing clothes into a social activity and a time to meet people. See China Highlights Tibet tours to experience this festival.
The Bathing Festival goes back to the 11th century when astrology was introduced to Tibet. By looking at the stars and planets, the appearance of Venus would mark when summer changes to fall. The appearance of Venus starts the Bathing Festival. The Bathing Festival takes place in the 7th month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar every year. The actual date according to our Western calendar is difficult to calculate.
This is a weather-wise nice time to travel in Tibet when the high temperatures in many places including Lhasa the capital city are around 20°C or about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The rivers might be cold, but the experience is unforgettable as most Tibetan people in Tibet take the journey out of towns and countryside to take part in this festival.