Tibetans celebrate annual butter lamp festival
Large crowds of Tibetan pilgrims lit butter lamps and prayed throughout Tuesday night to mark the traditional festival that commemorates Tsong Khapa, a master of Tibetan Buddhism.
The festive crowd gathered at Jokhang Temple in the heart of Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, late Tuesday afternoon, prostrating on the ground and praying for good luck.
More than 6,000 butter lamps were lit on the roof of the landmark structure, the flickering flames illuminating the skyline.
Hundreds of monks chanted the sutra in praise of the high monk, their voices amplified by microphones.
Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelupga -- also known as the yellow hat -- sect of Tibetan Buddhism, died on the 25th day of the 10th month in the Tibetan calendar in 1419.
Tibetans have since commemorated the day by lighting butter lamps and praying for happiness and good health. The festival has no fixed date on the Western calendar, which never coincides with the Tibetan calendar.
"It's a significant occasion for all monasteries of the Gelupga sect," said Lhaba, a monk at Jokhang Temple. "We chant sutras and blow the long horns to bless all humans. By lighting butter lamps, we pray for prosperity."
In Tibetan dialect, the festival is called "Ganden Atsok."
Yeshe Drakpa, a pilgrim from the Qamdo Prefecture, has prayed in front of Jokhang Temple hundreds of times every day since he arrived in Lhasa three weeks ago.
He prostrates himself, falling to his knees and then lying flat on his stomach. On Tuesday alone, he repeated the same ritual at least 2,000 times.
"I hope the Buddhist master will protect my family from illness and other disasters," he said.
The crowd left Jokhang late after the sutra session, but butter lamp lights shone in every Tibetan home throughout the night, a tradition followed by all devout Buddhists.
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