Tibetan culture developed under the influence of contact with neighboring countries and cultures: Nepal, India and from the other regions of China – have influenced the development of Tibetan culture, but the Himalayan region’s geographical remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinctive local influences. Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the 7th Century. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of Buddhist religion, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form in Tibet, influenced by the Bön tradition and other local beliefs. Tibet’s specific geographic and climactic conditions- its altitude, short growing season, and cold weather- have encouraged reliance on pastoralism, as well as the development of a different cuisine from surrounding regions.
In Tibet there are many interesting customs and cultures which have been followed by the Tibetan people from the time of their civilization. Below you will find a variety of culture and customs performed by Tibetan people.
Khada is the symbol of purity. Presenting Khada signifies the purest intention and gesture. It has a long historical link with its origin in Tibet. It is said that during the time of early Tubo dynasty, the king would present the tiger skin to the military personal on higher ranks and to the ordinary solders, he would present the skin of cat and other animal. This present is the gesture of appreciation and to signifies their courage they have shown in the war. later due to strong influences of Buddhism, the animal skin is changed to the white cloth.
When some one give you a Khada, you have to keep it and if the relationship is broken. You have to return it back as if like you are returning his friendship. Keeping the Khada is not practice now a days but the offering does. If you meet reverent monks, Lama and leader (generally someone higher the one self), they may put the Khada you offered back on your neck. this signifies their love and care for you.
Since it signifies the purity it is offered to all the holy object, offered to altar, offered in monastery, any person and even on the high passes. The practice of offering Khada is so rooted in Tibetan societies that ever family and house hold must have it with them. The custom of offering Khada begins from the birth of a child to the death of a family member including all the occasions in between. And you are very likely to receive two Khada on our Tibet tour.
Tibetan prayer flags has been popularize by western mountaineering communities in the world. Many high peaks and base camps now has Tibetan prayer flags with good intentions to have safe summit. Its origin can be trace back to thousands of year linked with Tibetan home grown religion of Bon.
In Bon tradition it is believe that the harmony of elements are prime for the welfare and prosperity. Thus the five color flag symbolizing five element are place high place to harmonize the relation between the elements. This tradition of Bon has been merge in Buddhist tradition. Now what Buddhist believe is that the word of Sutra’s printing on the flag would spread into the universe and it bring good merit to person for hanging it.
The prayer flags are replaced on special cultural and religious occasions like traditional Tibetan lunar new year, Saka Dawa festivals and so on.
Kora means circumambulation in Tibetan, it has been in ancient tradition of Bon religion. Its believe that one will acquire a loads of positive merit by circumambulating the holy shrines, Monastery and entire city as it has loads of religious items and spot in the city. when you arrive in Lhasa and other places you will see a lots people circumambulating the Potala and Bhakor area. Bhakor is the main spot for people to circumambulate. One thing you might notice is all the Buddhist will walk clock wise and the Bonpo (follower of Bon tradition) will walk anti-clock wise. Buddhist believes that Buddha walks clock wise and as a follower their follow his steps in clock, on opposite Bonpo too believe that Buddha walk clock wise and there walk anti clock wise in order to have audience with him.
Prostration is an act of taking refuge to three jewels of Buddha drama : Buddha, the teacher. Dharma, his teaching and the Sangha the community of enlighten beings. taking refuge to these three gems defines if you are Buddhist or not. Buddhist take refuge to three gems and non Buddhist doesn’t.
the first move is to place your folded on your forehead, as the gesture of showing you are surrendering your body. second move is you will place you fold hand on mouth, as a gesture of surrendering your speech. the third move is to place your folded hand on your chest, a gesture of surrendering your soul. then next move would either you will kneel and bow forward to touch you fore head on the ground, or you will lean forward to lay down on the ground on your chest and touch your fore head on the ground. The final move shows you are surrendering body speech and mind to the feet of three jewels.
The prostration is a gesture to show that, there is suffering in this Samasara and Dharma is the only way out. And you need help of Buddha to teach to the path our of Samsara which is his teaching and you need fellow folk to accompany you on the path that is the Sangha.
You will see a lots of Tibetan prostrating infront of the JhoKang temple, Potala and any other monastery in Tibet. prostration has become a daily routine for many and this helps people maintaining they health as an side effect.
Tibetan has been very font of tea. Sweet tea has become very popular social drink in contemporary Tibet. In every local restaurant in you will see a tons of people having sweet tea. The tea house has become a very popular socializing place. the biggest and most popular are the Match Box cafe near Jhokhang and Ani Tsangku nunnery. there are many tea house which are also distinguish in its characteristic. Tibetan tea house are lately becoming must visit place for many foreign and domestic tourist. It would be good local experience to visit tea house once in your Tibet tour.
Another food, which is gaining its popularity is the Tibetan style noodle. This is little thicker then the normal noodle that you may get it in your country. It is delicious taste make it very popular that almost every restaurant and tea house sells it. you can have vegetarian and non vegetarian Tibetan noodle. We encourage our guides to take our client to have sweet tea and Tibetan noodle once in the tour time. Many of our groups take this opportunity to enjoy this local delicacy.