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Shoton - Opera Festival of Tibet to begin from 4 March

March 1, 2008

29 February 2008

Dharamshala: His Holiness the Dalai Lama will open the 14th Shoton
Festival, an annual celebration of Tibetan Opera (Lhamo) to be held at
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamsala, beginning 4

The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts is organising the festival.

During the festival, TIPA and opera associations from Tibetan
communities from all over India, including Tibetan Homes Foundation
Mussoorie, Norgyeling Tibetan settlement, Bhandara, Doeguling,
Mundgod, Bylakuppee settlement, will stage different opera

This year's opera attractions will be Chungpo Dhonyoe Dhondup, Prince
Drimeh Kunden, Nangsa Woebum, Jowo Je Palden Atisha, Prince Norsang.

The 14th Tibetan opera festival will conclude on 9 March.

As envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Institute of
Performing Arts has been playing an important role in the preservation
and development of all aspects of culture and traditions of Tibet,
including, traditional Tibetan opera.

(In an effort to help Tibetan youth know their rich cultural roots,
TibetNet will feature occasional articles on the festivals of Tibet)

Origins of Shoton Festival

Tracing the historical account of Tibet, there exists two theories,
which explain the origins of Shoton festival. According to the first -
in India, Lord Buddha initiated the practice of monks going on a
summer retreat. When Buddhism flourished in Tibet, this practice was
believed to have adopted by many monasteries in Tibet. The monks of
Drepung monasteries in Tibet go into summer retreat on the 15th day of
the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar. These Disciplinary Monks
were replaced on the 30th day of the same month. This particular
occasion is known as Drepung Shoton.

The other origin of the Shoton is concerned with Jamyang Choje Tashi
Palden, the main disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, who was born on the 6th
day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar (Earth-Sheep year) at
Samye. In Wood-Sheep year, 1415, Jamyang Choje saw many auspicious
signs in dreams when he lived in Ne'u. Later Je Tsongkhapa met Jamyang
Choje personally and advised him to build a religious institution for
the propagation of his own traditional Sutra Tantra and for the
benefits of others. Moreover, Je Tsongkhapa laid the foundation stone
for the institution.

Je Tsongkhapa gave an auspicious conch shell taken from Gokpari Hill
and prophesied that the institution would become extremely famous. In
the year 1416, Namkha Sangpo, the District commissionaire of Ne'u
Dzong gave a generous contribution and Drepung monastery was thus
constructed. The opening ceremony of Drepung monastery was held at
same time as the summer retreat and it was the time when all the
nomadic people have plentiful stocks of dairy products. The curd,
being white in color, represents auspiciousness (in Tibetan, curd is
sho and festival is ton). During the Drepung ceremony, they served the
sho to all the monks. Therefore, this particular day is called Shoton.

It can be seen then, that the evolution of the name Shoton is derived
from these two historical events surrounding the Drepung monastery;
the first surviving through the network of oral history, the second
more factual and supported by written accounts. However, both
explanations of the word Shoton are equally accepted.

The reason for changing the Drepung Shoton into the Tibetan Shoton
stems from the occurance of instability resulting from events in 1959,
when the Chinese destroyed not only Drepung Shoton, but most other
aspects of the Tibetan culture and tradition as well. The name
"Tibetan Shoton" reflects the fact that Shoton is a part of the entire
Tibetan Culture not just a feature of a single monastery.

-- The origins of Shoton festival is posted on the official website of TIPA
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