Sikkim holds the aura of a magical and mystical faraway land, that sits in the northeast region of India. A small and beautiful state, it is largely dependent on tourism and agriculture to keep its economy going. The one time that the two coincide is during Losar, the Tibetan New Year. 

The Tibetan New Year is a harvest festival that is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety by the locals and is also, thus, a beautiful time for family holidays. It also gives you a peek into the culture of Sikkim so you can experience a different kind of New Year, Tibetan style.

 Losar is celebrated in the cusp between winter and spring. Hence, those who visit Sikkim during this time can enjoy breathtaking vistas, stunning views of the Kanchenjunga and bountiful nature that lures you in. 

Here’s a guide to learn more about this Tibetan festival and plan your trip to Sikkim for the Losar 2024.

Losar – the harvest festival

In Tibetan, ‘Lo’ means year and ‘sar’ signifies new, and this festival, celebrated over a period of a week, marks the end of a good harvest for the farmers of the region and the beginning of the next year. After working hard and putting in all their time and energy into their field, this is a time for farmers to sit down with their families and celebrate their bountiful harvest. The Tibetan New Year celebration includes grand rituals, vivid ceremonies and lots of merriment among the local community. 

Also known as Gyalpo Losar, this festival sees the local Buddhist people in Sikkim come out in huge numbers. The festival is marked by a visit to the monastery, after which people head over to meet and greet their loved ones. There are traditional dances, also called Chaams, and the state is bedecked with flowers to welcome the new year. 

Let’s delve a little into the history of Losar Festival

Losar was originally a winter ceremony and in the ancient days, people burned incense to appease the local deities and to keep negative spirits away. This is from a time when Buddhism had yet to arrive in Tibet and neighbouring countries, such as India, Nepal and Bhutan. As centuries passed, the Tibetan astrological methods changed, and local Buddhists began to celebrate this festival to thank the farmers for the previous harvest, and to welcome the new season. In this way, Losar became the Tibetan New Year.

This is the time when you can witness the best of Tibetan culture; men, women and children alike are dressed in their best traditional attires. Tibetan prayer flags can be seen fluttering on rooftops of houses and monasteries, and even on the surrounding hills. Locals visit monasteries and conduct a gratitude ritual to ‘Nagas’, the water spirits, and request them to provide their region with abundant water during the next harvest. 

To see the Tibetan New Year festivities and celebration in all their splendour, you must head to Rumtek Monastery and Phodong Monastery. These are the two main places where you will get to witness the fascinating rituals and enjoy the complete ceremony. 

The highlight of the Losar ritual at the monasteries is the local chanting of prayers that can have an almost hypnotic effect. Yes, there are local celebrations in other parts of Sikkim too, such as Lachen, Lachung, and others. This is primarily because the terrain and the snow-blocked roads might prevent some people from reaching these two monasteries. 

As family holidays go, Losar Festival in Sikkim offers a complete treat of cultural extravaganza for you. The state is a kaleidoscope of colours, sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Relish traditional New Year Tibetan foods while feasting your sight on folk dances and local music. The people here immerse themselves in the festive spirit and you can see this in every aspect of the celebration. About 2-3 days before the actual festival, monks from the monasteries perform Gutor Cham. This is a masked Lama Dance celebration which showcases the victory of good over evil.

History and Significance of Losar Festival 

The history of the Losar festival dates back to the pre-Buddhist period when Tibetans followed the Bon religion. Every year, during the winter season, the Tibetans organised a spiritual festival and offered incense smoke to the local deities and the spirits to seek their blessing for the wellbeing of the surroundings and the people.  

This spiritual festival later became a farmers' festival and was celebrated during the blossoming season of the Apricot fruit. However, things changed during the reign of the 9th Tibetan King, Pude Gungyal, when an elderly woman in his kingdom taught him to calculate time based on the different moon phases. This was the foundation of the Lunar calendar and the current form of the Losar festival.  

Losar Festival Celebrations in India 

Losar is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm in India as well, especially in the northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh. It is celebrated with much fervour in Ladakh and some parts of Himachal Pradesh, like Dharamshala, which has a considerable population of Tibetan monks. 

But the best Losar festival celebrations in India happen in Sikkim. It is a momentous day for the locals, who celebrate it as a harvest festival. The locals even call it Gyalpo Losar, and on the festival day, they visit a Monastery, perform spiritual rituals, and later visit their friends and families. 

Losar Festival Celebrations in Sikkim 

If you have been looking for a reason to visit Sikkim, February would be a great time to visit the beautiful state as the Loser festival in Sikkim lets you experience the beauty of local culture, heritage, traditions and customs, cuisines, and stunning landscape. The Losar festival date in Sikkim 2024 spans from February 21 to 27.  

Monasteries are an important place to be at during the Losar festival in Sikkim 2024, and you must especially visit the Pemayangtse, Rumtek, or Phodong Monastery to witness the celebrations. Here, the celebrations start 2-3 days before the festival date, with the lamas performing the Chaam, a traditional dance performance. The dance is a symbolic representation of the victory of good over evil. It is a wonderful event that you must not miss.  

During the course of the festival, you can witness many cultural events being organised throughout the state where locals perform folk dance and carry out many traditional rituals all day. Seeing people dancing and doing rituals is a cynosure to the eye. Another exciting aspect of the Losar festival in Sikkim is that the locals prepare Tsampa buckets, a blend of roasted flour and butter.   

Best Places to visit in Sikkim 

Apart from witnessing the beautiful Losar festival celebrations and making merry being part of it, you can explore the various beautiful popular and lesser-known tourist spots during your visit to the state. While there are too many places to visit, choosing only a few can be challenging. So, to help you get the best experience, we have picked the best places to visit in Sikkim that will leave you mesmerised.  

  • Tsomgo Lake
  • Nathula Pass
  • Kanchenjunga Base Camp
  • Yumthang Valley
  • Pelling
  • Teesta River
  • Gurudongmar Lake
  • Gangtok

Things to do in Sikkim 

Sikkim is the best antidote to your daily routine. It has a mystical power to soothe your nerves, calm your mind and fill your heart with ethereal happiness with its pure fresh air, snow-clad mountain peaks, and long stretches of lush green valley. During your trip, you will never have a dull moment, and you will have plenty of things to do in Sikkim. Here are some of our top picks that you must not miss.  

  • Take a Yak ride around the Changu Lake
  • Go on a chopper ride in Gangtok to get a bird's eye view of the stunning valley below
  • Visit the monasteries and revel in the peaceful and tranquil environment inside
  • Experience an adventurous trek like never before by going on a trek around the various trekking trails 
  • Try solo hand gliding at Yumthang for an out-of-the-world experience
  • Go camping at the Yuksom base camp and get a stunning view of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks 

Resorts in Sikkim 

Over the years, Sikkim has earned a reputation as one of the best tourist places in India, thanks to the unfiltered natural beauty of the place and the unique festival celebrations like the Losar Festival. With many tourists visiting the state during the festival, many new places and resorts in Sikkim have come up in the past few years.  

In fact, many major players in the hospitality industry, like Club Mahindra, have opened up new resorts in the state to welcome tourists and allow them to have a magical holiday experience. Club Mahindra Gangtok, Club Mahindra Baiguney and Le Vintuna Gangtok are some of the most premium resorts in Sikkim, which boast spacious rooms and modern amenities, including a sprawling pool, expansive open gardens, spa, gym, library, indoor games, etc.  

Besides, all these resorts offer signature Club Mahindra experiences specially designed to give you and your family moments of pure joy and bliss! 

About Club Mahindra

Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.

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