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200,000 Buddhism believers celebrate Shoton festival

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2015-08-16 13:58:26
200,000 Buddhism believers celebrate Shoton festival

Photo taken on Aug. 14, 2015 shows the ceremony held to unfold a huge Buddha painting during the annual traditional Shoton (Yogurt) Festival at Sera Monastery in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Reigion. [Photo/Xinhua]

More than 200,000 Buddhists and other believers on Friday thronged Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, for the start of the traditional Shoton Festival.

It kicked off at Drepung Monastery, the largest monastery of Tibetan Buddhism's Gelug Sect, where a 40-meter-long thangka painting of the Buddha was exhibited.

Buddhists from around Tibet started to gather in Lhasa from the small hours of Friday. Migmar, a young Tibetan, arrived at 2 a.m. with some family members and neighbors.

"Exhibition of the Buddha painting is a very important occasion, on a par with New Year," he said. After breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Migmar walked to Drepung and waited for the thangka to be unveiled by monks.

At around 7 a.m., lamas started to carry it to the monastery main hall. Believers hurled ceremonial white scarves on it and prayed. People recorded the rite with their mobile phones. "This is the first time I've come to see the exhibition of the Buddha, who I pray to for health, happiness and a good harvest," Yangdron said.

The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a week-long gala held since the 11th century.

It was originally a religious occasion during which locals would offer yogurt to monks who had finished meditation retreats. This year's festival will be held from Aug. 14 to 20.

Local authorities used 150 buses to ferry believers around and introduced traffic controls for the busy period around the start of the festival. Free bottled water was offered, and doctors were on standby for emergency situations.

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