By Akhilesh Bharti
Dharamsala, Mar 7 : Hordes of foreign tourists and opera enthusiasts have converged in Dharamsala for an annual six-day-long 'Shoton Opera festival'.
Under the guidance of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) has been making special arrangements for inviting the opera companies' in-exile to participate in the colourful festival since 1993.
"This 'Shoton Opera festival' is the medium where we can provide the Tibetan opera enthusiast, artists and the musicians a platform to showcase their talents, skills and proficiency in Tibetan opera. That was the purpose of organising this festival," said Tenzin, Secretary, TIPA.
Many Tibetans, monks and foreign tourists assembled to watch the colourful opera.
"It's great that they are performing here in exile because they are keeping their culture alive. It's letting their children know what their culture is and keeping it going," said Rebecca Woodsford, a tourist from the UK.
The festival showcases Tibetan culture and spreads the teachings of the Lord Buddha through operas and theatres.
Opera troupes perform Lhama, the Tibetan opera based on the lives of famous figures in Tibetan Buddhism, to receive the blessings of the Dalai Lama.
Opera troupes were found throughout Tibet and each major district had a major troupe by the nineteenth century.
Traditionally, the 'Shoton' festival is celebrated on a full moon day to mark the end of long summer retreat of monks and originated at the Drepung Monastery of Lhasa in Tibet around 14th century.
The festival took its name from 'Sho' or yoghurt served to the monks and nuns practising purification rituals during the time and ate no meat during full moon days.
This was also the time when operatic re-enactments of stories from the life of Buddha and his previous births were held.
The 14th Tibetan opera festival will conclude on March 9.