Gedong Festival offers you a different Shangri-La
It was a mid-winter morning. When the sun was on the rise, sounds of chanting scripture, crashing cymbals and rumbling drums come from the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery that lies near the Naizi River.
On January 5, the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery in Shangri-La, northwest Yunnan’s Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, ushered in its annual grand event, the Gedong Festival. The festival is a traditional occasion where Tibetans celebrate bumper harvests and pray for auspiciousness in the new year.
Thousands of Tibetans, as well as tourists from around the world, gathered at the temple for a grand occasion. Tibetan Buddhist devotees were dressed in brilliant hues of pink and blue, while Lamas young and old mixed with festival-goers wearing traditional garb to watch the religious Cham dances.
Masked, costumed monks portrayed a host of ghosts and deities from the pantheon of Tibetan Buddhist mythology, and they danced outdoors to the sounds of traditional instruments played by lamas.
The masks were beautifully made into the forms of horses, cows, sheep, yaks and dogs, all giving off a sense of mystery and illusion. The temple halls were full of flickering candles and butter lamps, and fragrant smoke from burning incense permeated the whole Monastery, with prayers coming and going.
In the dance interval, two funny senior wearing yellow-white masks amused children in the crowd, and one naughty kid slapped the senior’s hat, causing the audience to burst into laughter. The mysteriousness gave way to an air of liveliness.
The Gedong Festival closed with a moving scene. The aged Living Buddha would personally preside over the ceremony, and he would burn the heart-shaped designs to dispel the devils for all the believers of Tibetan Buddhism. At this, all prayed with piety for safety and inner peace.