History of Shoton Festival in Tibet
Shoton Festival is one of the major traditional festivals in Tibet, featuring in opera performance, song singing and other local shows. It was said that the festival can traced back to the 11th century when Master Atisha (a monk from Bengal) was dwelling and studying in Nethang monastery in summer of that year, he set up rules for his students to follow, one of the set rules is that lamas should not leave monastery out to enjoy funs in case of protecting little creatures of the nature from being trampled to death.
In 11th century, Buddhism was getting recovery from the heavy hit of King Darmo (the Tibetan king in 9th century who issued harsh laws to prohibit the spreading and any religious activities in Tibet highland in favor of his party), people between mid 9th century and mid 11th century had suffered a lot from the continuous and disastrous wars and rebellions and all prayed to God to wish having peaceful life, in history when Buddhism was in power, the life of people would be better and the suffering of people is lighter, and Buddhism rituals advocate people to love little creatures, to respect the existence of lives and call on people to love each other and forget the hatred and revenge.
In Atisha's time, it is time to sow seeds of live and spreading Buddhism in this suffering highland, and the cause Atisha is dedicating himself to is meeting the spiritual needs of common people, so he got great respect and it was he who begin the refusion of Buddhism in this snowland 200 years after Darmo rooted Buddhism out, during that period in which Atisha and his students stayed inside the monastery, the locals around and Buddhism followers would offer then their best family-made Yoghurt, fruits and other seasoning food as their sacrifice to their spiritual master and a way to show their respect.
In history, Shoton festival was performed in Drepung monastery, this is because that when Gelupa established its rule over Tibet, its religious and political center was in Drepung monastery, the Ganden Pochan was the once the residence for 5th Dalai Lama, after the Potala palace was rebuilt in 1682, he moved his palace to Potala from Drepung monastery; from the year 1682 on , the Shoton festival was performed first in Potala palace, then shifted to Drepung monastery; in the time of 7th Dalai Lama, the Norbulinka as built, he ordered the Shoton festival to be performed in his newly built summer palace after Drepung monastery. Hence, it is the reason that why every year when Shoton festival is to begin, Drepung monastery and Norbulink become the center of public focus. During the celebration, Yoghurt was served, local style operas and songs were performed, it was a sea of songs and dances in these areas. With time going, it gradually became one of the grandest, important festivals in Tibet prior to Tibet New year.