This festival involves lighting butter lamps and displaying butter sculptures in order to commemorate the Buddha’s great victory over his opponents 2,500 years ago in India. He bested them in a great debate. The festival falls in the first month of the Tibetan calendar on the 15th day. The Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival is the last and greatest day of the Monlam Festival that commemorates Buddha’s miracles. During the day, people go to temples, and there are displayed sculptures made of colored butter. The sculptures are psychedelic. Then at night, thousands of butter lamps represent the light of Buddhism. The day commemorates Buddha’s victory and wisdom, and it is an interesting sight especially on Barkhor Street in Lhasa that is capital city of Tibet.
The colorful and intricately designed butter sculptures are called “Tormas.” Making these Tormas has been a tradition for hundreds of years. Now, some of the large butter sculptures tell the stories of Buddha and his oral victory. Various characters in the old stories are represented to instruct people the history. Barkhor Street and its square are turned into a grand exhibition site for Tormas sculpted of butter. It is a fantastic night. Some of the sculptures are lit and with the thousands of burning lights, they make a meditative or mesmerizing scene.
Along with seeing the butter sculptures and the lights, people dance and sing in the streets. It is a festive time, and it is said to be their merriest celebration. It is sort of like a Christmas celebration. The lights burn throughout the night in chilly the air until the morning. For Tibetans, it is the culmination of their winter festival and New Year festival.