Tibetans change prayer flags as auspicious Year of Iron Tiger begins

07:59, February 17, 2010      

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Nyima Tashi changed his house's old Darchor, or prayer flag, to a brand new colorful one early Tuesday morning. He placed it in four corners of the rooftop in a solemn family ceremony while praying for an auspicious new year.

The family in Gonggar County, in Tibet's Shannan Prefecture, holds the "Tuosui" ceremony annually in accordance with Tibetan tradition.

Darchor -- with "Dar" meaning increased life, fortune, health and wealth, and "Cho" referring to "all sentient beings" -- refers to prayer flags with large single rectangles attached to poles.

During the special annual event, Tibetan people dress up in traditional costumes, gather together on the rooftop to attend the ceremony and participate in prayer rituals in the Tibetan Language, not to mention the festive food and offerings.

It is the first "Tuosui" ceremony for Nyima's family sine they moved into the new house, and so they value it very much.

The ceremony's procedures include burning Tibetan incense, getting the Darchor ready, throwing Tsampa (food made of barley flour) into air, and placing the new Darchor in the preset direction.

Tagyal, the main worshipper at the Luphug community in Lhasa, capital of southwestern Tibetan Autonomous Region, said, "This is our tradition. By doing this, we wish everyone a good New Year and Tashi Delek!"

Tibetans usually choose an auspicious date during the Tibetan New year holiday to hold the ceremony to change the colorful sutra streamers.

In the Tibetan calendar, "The Year of the Iron Tiger" began on Feb. 14, the same date as the Lunar New Year. This coincidence has occurred 18 times since 1950, according to experts of astrology and Tibetan calendar calculations.

After the ceremony, Nyima's family sat together, making toasts and enjoying food.

Nyima said his family of five lived crammed in shabby rooms until last year, when they built seven stone-wood rooms with aluminum alloy windows.

The new house was connected with the tap water system, thanks to a government allowance of nearly 20,000 yuan (2,940 U.S. dollars), he said.

"Many households in our county built new houses last year, which makes the 'Tuosui' ceremony more solemn," he said.

Since 2006, the regional government has allocated funds ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 yuan to each household to ensure access to proper housing.

About 1.2 million farmers in 230,000 households were covered by the project.

Tagyal said the traditions of the ceremony were unchanged but that people dress and living conditions continue to improve.

Source: Xinhua
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