As a Buddhist community, the Tibetan culture is greatly shaped by Buddhist religious laws, from birth rituals, marriage ceremonies to burial rituals. However, history has it that the Tibetan people have always been a religious type even before the introduction of Buddhism.
As you enjoy your time in Tibet, you will notice that there is a Buddhist aspect in every other ceremony. During weddings and funerals, the Tibetans, burn leaves from herbal trees such as pine and cypress to appease Buddha. This is done around the monasteries and the temples.
Another great display of Tibetan culture and custom are the mani stones on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The mani stones of various sizes and colors are piled up and marked with various Buddhist messages. Pilgrims then go around this pile in a clockwise direction as they honour Buddha and renew their loyalty to him. The pilgrims also take this as a chance to pray for good health as well as other wishes.
The Tibetans are usually a very religious community and there will always be a religious festival at a particular time of the year. This is because every other ceremony and activity has a religious angle and aspect in it. Every part of the Tibetan life is influenced by religion. The dresses, the wooden utensils, the food they partake, the animals they keep, to the Tibetan topography, all of them are inclined to Buddhism.
The most revered religious celebration is the Tibetan New Year celebration famously known as the Losar. This is a period that lasts between February and March and lasts for several weeks. After this, the list of ceremonies is dotted with the likes of Saga Saga festival, Shotton festival, Yushu Horse festival and many more.
Tibetan Sporting Culture
One cannot speak of Tibetan customs without mentioning the Tibetan sports activities. Apart from religion, the Tibetian culture is also defined by numerous sporting activities. These sports are performed to mark various occasions and competitions.
The sports include archery, which showcases the Tibetan hunting traditions. The archers use wonderfully designed arrows which ‘whistle’ as they shoot whilst riding on horses. The competition lasts for three days and as a tourist, you will definitely love it.
Another famous sporting activity is the annual horse racing event, which is a national event. Horse riders ride for 10 kilometres and the day is full of pomp and celebrations. The locals dress on specific dresses and prepare traditional war delicacies. Other famous sports are the Yak racing, wrestling, rock carrying, Horsemanship and the Tibetan tug of war. All these sporting events form a core part of the Tibetan customs.
Other interesting Tibetian customs are the marriage customs. Like any other culture, marriage news in Tibet is always received and celebrated with such pomp and mirth. The ceremony has its foundation on the Buddhist religion. It is celebrated by the whole community and is concluded with a great feast.
Tibetan Burial Customs
The Tibetan burial customs are a source of curiosity to many visitors. There are various types of burials but the famous ones are the sky burial for common people and the stupa burial for the religious leaders. In some parts of Tibet, you can witness the river burial, earth inhumation and cremation which are very unpopular and rare. Visitors find these customs unique if not weird and will surely leave you with a story to tell.
The Tibetan food-related customs and etiquette are also unique in this part of the world. Firstly, the Tibetans are tea lovers and you are sure to enjoy this during your visit. They have various types and flavours of tea. The etiquette of the Tibetans is very strict as it is religiously based. As a tourist, you should try to fit in and observe these etiquettes to avoid getting into trouble.
Other customs include the initiation of young women and men into adulthood, birth and naming rituals as well as harvests ceremonies. If you are travelling to Tibet, you will get a chance to observe most of these wonderful customs.