DHARAMSALA, Mar 27: His Holiness the Dalai Lama today graced the opening ceremony of the 20th Shoton (yogurt) festival held at Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts here in Dharamsala.
Thousands of Tibetan residents of Dahramsala gathered at the TIPA ground to watch the annual festival which was attended by among others, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the members of the Kashag (Tibetan cabinet) and members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
This year’s festival include performances by opera associations from Tibetan Homes Foundation Mussorie, Kalimpong, Mundgod, Kollegal, TCV Chauntra, Odisha, Bandara, Bylakuppe, and Mainpat from India, and, Solukumbu and Kathmandu from Nepal.
Though the Tibetan Opera (Shoton) festival is a centuries-old tradition, which has its roots in ancient India, the origin of the festival in Tibet could be traced to the founding of Drepung Monastery by Jamyang Choeje, the disciple of Je Tsongapa. It was observed in conjunction with the end of the summer retreat of the monastery during which curd is offered to the monks. It was known then as Drepung Shoton. Later during the Great Fifth Dalai Lama this festival grew into to a full fledged festival of performance of Tibetan opera which continues to be celebrated as Shoton.
In exile, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts organised Shoton festival for the first time in 1993 at the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Over the years, the festival grew in prominence as new opera associations started mushrooming across Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal.
This year’s festival will conclude on 5 April with a final performance by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, on the life of Lord Buddha which will be performed for the first time in the history of Shoton festival.