Tibet Shoton Festival 2012 Travel Experience
Experiencing the Unveiling of a Thangka at the Shoton Festival 2012
The Shoton Festival is one of the most important festival for the Tibetan people. It is celebrated annually in the month of August, or late in the sixth month or early in the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. The prelude of the Festival is the Buddha Unveiling at Drepung Monastery.
At 8 am as the first sunlight touches the valley where Drepung Monastery is located, lamas at the Monastery will carry out the large-scale Thangka of Maitreya and display it on a platform half way up the mountain to the west of monastery. Tibetans then rush up to offer white Hada.
The valley in early morning
The quiet valley became excited as crowds of Buddhists and travelers flocked from all directions to worship the Buddha.
It involved a lot of walking (about one hour). Buses are required to park some distance away. Tourist buses can take travelers to the monastery other days, but the road was closed to all vehicles that day.
If you plan to go, expect to rub shoulders with huge crowds of around 50 thousand people. Much of the time we were pushed along by the crowd.
It was too crowded for us to follow the stream of people further. So we gave up and wandered through some narrow back alleys in the monastery. Surprisingly, we turned out to be at a very good location with a clear view of the Thangka unfolded.
People thronged to offer hada. Countless hada few in front of the Thangka of Buddha.
Smoke from burning incense shrouded the valley.
The way back was not easy at all, trudging on a dirt road with thousands around you. I felt extremely exhausted, and could hardly move a step further when we arrived at our bus. We walked about 4 hours that morning.
A Few Reminders for Future Travelers
- It will involve a lot of walking, so a pair of comfortable walking shoes is necessary. Expect to see huge crowds around you.
- Arrive in Tibet two or three days earlier for acclimatization. People are more likely to get sick if you do a lot of walking the first two days after they arriving at a high-altitude place.
- Flights and trains tickets in and out of Tibet are extremely hard to obtain a week before and after the Festival.
Don’t try to go if you don’t feel well.