Jampaling Festival: Newar Buddhist Festival in Tibet
The word “Jampaling” is the name of a Great Stupa situated in a holy mountain near the south of Lhasa of Tibet. It is the shrine of Arya Maitreya, the future Buddha of present aeon. It used to appear as a great Chaitya from outside but in reality it was a monastery. On the ground floor of this stupa there was a great image of Arya Maitreya Bodhisattva. There were dozens of sacred image and sculptures in the upper part of the stupa. One could visit the interior through stairs.
There w3as a separate shrine dedicated to Nepales Simhasarthavaha (Tib. Norbu Sangya) near the stupa. This shrine was profusely decorated with Nepalese artistic artifacts.
The first floor of the stupa had a magnificent image of Cakra-Samvara and enough space for Dho-cho-ba practice. Large number of fresco paintings embellished with artistic trees, birds and animals of different kinds used to adorn the walls and ceiling.
The second floor had a magnificent image of Arya Amoghpasa Lokeshvara standing on the main pedastral.
The third floor had a golden image of Shakyamuni Buddha embellished with Nepalese artistic style and the rest of the floor filled with high quality artistic Thankas displayed on the walls of the Stupa. Some floors had the library of manuscripts written in gold and silver ink properly covered with yellow cloths.
This stupa is of eight story with 12ft. high of each story, thus making a massive edifice of 96ft.
How to get to Jampaling?
In order to visit to Jampaling one had to have three days journey through mountain southwards from Lhasa, arriving then at a village called Ci-ti-so. From there one used to arrive Jampaling after 12hrs. of cumbersome journey. The monastery of Jampaling used to house about 50/60 Buddhist monks.
Jampaling Festival: Trade Fair too.
Jampaling Festival was one of the greatest festival of Tibet. It was a sort of modern Trade fair people from different parts of Tibet and also from border areas come to participate in this festival. people such as Si-ling-ba (Amdo province), Si-Chu-Ang ba, soko Khambas, Amdo, Tsang-ba, To-Yeba, Go-La-Kha (Southern Chinese), Abuha Kong-ba, Newars (Tib, Bal-Po) and different tribes of Tibetan people participate in the fair. They bring goods belonging to their respective regions. To cite some illustrations Kong-ba trades men (in the border of Indian Assam) bring “Fo-Ba” wooden tea cup for sale. Lhasa resident Newars bring gold, silver and copper ink. These inks are used in different monasteries of China and Tibet. Especially Chinese artist were very much fond of these Newar Tradesmen’s products as the inks used to be the best for Thanka paintings. The art of making gold ink, silver ink and copper ink being unknown to them Newar traders had monopoly and had a great demand for these inks. There are three important village around Jampaling. They are: Ci-Ti-So, Ta-Nang, andGya-Li. These villages are famous for weaving special Tibetan dress called “Na-Bu”. These “Na-Bu’sare used also by Han chinese and Mongolians. A set of Na-Bu dress is durable for one’s life time. Some of its threads are sometimes can be seen only by powerful lenses. As its threads are fine it is expensive too. The colours dyed by Newar Ranjikars were however durable and of excellent quality. Ranjitkars are Newars who are expert in dyeing of colours. Most of the businessmen who dealt with this Nabu dress were Newars.
Every year this festival is observed by the Tibetans and Newars on the sixth month of Tibetan calendar i.e. Shravana pratipada to Astami (July/August) for straight eight days. This tradition was founded by Nepalese Sarthavaha. During festivals Newars used to exercise full power in that place and ceremony. The story of Nepalese Simhasarthgavaha ;is related in detail in Mani bka’-‘bum and Guna Karanda vyuha Sutra. None were to start their business in the fair unless and until
Newar Buddhists offer their long scarf (pa-ta) to the great Stupa. It was a time honored tradition.
In the first day of ceremony all Newar Buddhists assemble together and after performing ritualistic ceremony of offering scarf (pa-ta) to the great stupa accompanied by A Newar Buddhists musical instruments they then circummabulated the great caitya three times. After this ceremony Newar Buddhists used to announce that the fair participants can start their business. The length of scarf when hanged from the top of caitya to the bottom is about 360 ku measures in Newar tradition i.e.360 x 1.5 ft =540 ft. These cloths are used for wicks of butter lamps in the monastery for a year.
This festival used to continue for a week. People used to make a heap of dump in the surrounding areas. It is strange that after the festival a heavy rain used to wash away all the dump clearing the land as before. These events were continuing till recently.
Unfortunately this gigantic stupa is no more now. It was completely destroyed by Red Chinese Army during the Cultural Revolution. After Jampaling festival Newar Buddhists used to stay at Ci-Ti-So village where they had constructed a Gonpa dedicated to Vajravira Mahakala. They used to perform special puja ceremony and used to invite all the Tibeto-Newars and other for feasting. After this residents of Lhasa Newars used to go back to their respective regions.
This photograph was taken by the author in 1956 AD. Like this many monasteries, shrines, temples and gompas were ransacked and bulldozed by Red Chinese Army in the name of “liberation Tibet” during Cultural Revolution. It was a great blow to Nepalese Buddhists sentiment as well as China-Nepal relations. How sad! Nepalese government is silent in this aspect too.
Courtsey: Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods
Vol. IV NO. I & II (1992)