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Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival: 6 Interesting Facts You Should Know

Last Update: March 8, 2023

If you are someone who is always on the lookout for unique cultural experiences, then you might want to consider the Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival. One of the most important festivals in Tibetan culture, the Butter Lamp Festival is a celebration of enlightenment, wisdom, and spiritual knowledge. In this article, we will explore six interesting facts about the festival that you might not know.

1. The Butter Lamp Festival is Celebrated on October 25 in the Tibetan Calendar.

The Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and is used by Tibetans to determine important festivals and events throughout the year. The Butter Lamp Festival falls on the 25th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar, which usually coincides with November or December of the Gregorian calendar.

The Butter Lamp FestivalThe Butter Lamp Festival is one of the most important Tibetan festivals

The festival has a deep spiritual significance and is celebrated in honor of the Buddha's teachings and the power of enlightenment. It is one of the most important Tibetan festivals and is celebrated across the region.

2. The Butter Lamp Festival is Celebrated to Commemorate the Parinirvana of Tsongkhapa.

Tsongkhapa, born in Tibet in 1357, was a renowned scholar, philosopher and Buddhist master. He founded the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the dominant school of Buddhism in Tibet today and emphasizes the importance of ethics and discipline, and is also known as the Yellow Hat sect.

Tsongkhapa Buddha statueTsongkhapa Buddha statue

Tsongkhapa passed away in 1419, and the Butter Lamp Festival originated as a commemoration of his parinirvana, which is the final nirvana after death that represents the ultimate liberation from the cycle of rebirth. So the Butter Lamp Festival is also called Tsongkhapa Day.

3. Jokhang Temple is the Most Popular Place to Go for the Butter Lamp Festival.

Jokhang Temple, located in the heart of Lhasa, is considered one of the most sacred temples in Tibet. It is no surprise that it is the most popular place for Tibetans to celebrate the Butter Lamp Festival.

At eight o'clock, a bustling crowd of Tibetan lamas, pilgrims, locals, and tourists gather in front of Jokhang Temple to witness the annual Butter Lamp Festival. As the sound of the suona fills the air, thousands of butter lamps are lit, illuminating every available space including roadsides, pagodas, roofs, windowsills, sutra halls, shrines, and altars. A bowl of holy water is placed inside the temple, creating a beautiful reflection of the glowing lamps.

Butter Lamp Festival in Jokhang TempleJokhang Temple is the most popular place for Tibetans to celebrate the Butter Lamp Festival.

Throughout the night, the pagodas, temples, and houses are brilliantly illuminated, with the twinkling butter lamps on the roof of Jokhang Temple being a particularly breathtaking sight. From a distance, it appears as if stars have fallen from the sky and the entire Barkhor street is aglow with light.

At this time, sincere pilgrims spin prayer wheels and chant the six-syllable Mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" to honor Tsongkhapa, and the scene is solemn and dignified. People burn piles of cypress branches at a simmering furnace in front of Jokhang Temple, and shout “La-Soro" (God Wins!). The atmosphere becomes extraordinarily enthusiastic.

4. You can also Attend the Ceremony at Ganden Monastery.

Every monastery in Lhasa holds commemorative activities during the festival, including Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, and Sera Monastery. To avoid the crowds, you can also go to attend the ceremony at Ganden Monastery, which is only about 60 kilometers away from Lhasa.

Celebrate the Butter Lamp Festival in Ganden MonasteryCelebrate the Butter Lamp Festival in Ganden Monastery.

Ganden Monastery was founded in the 15th century by Tsongkhapa. The monastery is located on a hilltop, and the view from the top is breathtaking. On the day of the festival, the monastery is adorned with colorful prayer flags, and monks chant prayers and perform rituals throughout the day.

5. The Numbers of the Butter lamps Lit during the Festival are All Singular.

During the Butter Lamp Festival, it is customary to light an odd number of butter lamps. This is because odd numbers are considered to be auspicious in Tibetan culture. The number of butter lamps lit can range from one to thousands, depending on the size of the temple or monastery.

In fact, a few days before the Butter Lamp Festival, devotees of Tibetan Buddhism have begun to start making the lamps, and the lamas in the monasteries will each make more than 30 of them.

Butter Lamp Festival Butter lampsButter lamps are made by mixing yak butter and vegetable oil and pouring the mixture into small cups.

Butter lamps are made by mixing yak butter and vegetable oil and pouring the mixture into small cups. A wick made of cotton or wool is then placed in the center of the cup. The cups can be simple or intricately decorated, with patterns and symbols representing different aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.

Butter lamps are considered to be a symbol of enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism. The warm glow of the butter lamp represents the inner light of wisdom and compassion, which is said to dispel the darkness of ignorance and bring peace and harmony to the world.

6. The Butter Lamp Festival is Not Only Celebrated in Tibet.

While the Butter Lamp Festival is most commonly associated with Tibet, it is also celebrated in other parts of China where Tibetan communities exist, such as Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu.

One of the most notable celebrations outside of Tibet is in Kangding, Sichuan. Kangding is home to a large Tibetan community, and the Butter Lamp Festival is a major event in the area. The festival in Kangding features traditional Tibetan dances, singing, and music, as well as butter lamp lighting and offerings to the Buddha.


The Butter Lamp Festival is a deeply spiritual and awe-inspiring event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a time to reflect on Tsongkhapa's teachings and offers prayers for all beings' well-being.

For tourists looking to experience authentic Tibetan culture, the Butter Lamp Festival could be a good choice during your trip to Tibet. If you ever get the chance to attend the festival, be sure to take part in the lighting of the butter lamps and immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere.

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