Tibetan opera festival begins in Dharamshala

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Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh), Mar 28 (ANI): Thousands of foreign tourists and opera enthusiasts have converged in Himachal Pradesh's Dharamshala town for the ongoing annual Shoton (Yoghurt banquet) Opera Festival.

The 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorjee inaugurated the festival on Saturday evening.

The annual-10-day-festival will feature performances of dances, chants and songs.

Different troupes will perform at six different schools around Dharamsala and the closing ceremony will be held at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA).

Under the guidance of the Dalai Lama, the TIPA has been making special arrangements for inviting the opera companies-in-exile to participate in the colourful festival since 1993.

"Every year in summer, the opera is held in Norbulingka, the summer palace of His Holiness Dalai Lama. And since Chinese occupation of Tibet, we could not have this festival in Tibet. So in exile, we have started this festival once again and this is a unique culture where Chinese are also performing," said Tipero, Secretary, Tibetan Opera Association.

Traditionally, the Shoton festival is celebrated on a full moon day to mark the end of the long summer retreat of Buddhist monks. It 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 who practised 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 the Buddha and his previous births were shown.

"In old Tibet, monks had to stay for long retreat, so people offered yoghurt to the monks. So later this became as a yoghurt festival and people performed opera here," said Dhondup, an Opera teacher, the TIPA.

The festival will conclude on April 06. By Akhilesh Bharati (ANI)

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