The Story behind The Chonga Choepa Candle Holder
Light filters through the temple in luminous shafts while the serene whisper of running water connects this surreal moment to the bright outside. La Lampe au Beurre de Yak is one of the four Buddhist festivals commemorating four events in the life of the Buddha according to Tibetan traditions.In December 2016, a monk lights butter lamps atop Jokhang Temple in the heart of Lhasa, capital of South West China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region. He is one of countless Tibetans lighting butter lamps, praying through the night in an annual festival commemorating Tsong Khapa, a master of Tibetan Buddhism.
Butter lamps are a conspicuous feature of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries throughout the Himalayas. The lamps traditionally burn clarified yak butter, but now often use vegetable oil or vanaspati ghee.
A plume of incense smoke signals a timeless, wordless peace. But whilst tranquility reigns, the rush of the Butter Lamp Festival, also known as Chonga Choepa, reminds us of all of the life of the Buddha and its pulsing beat. Garlands of Himalayan Jasmine – the Buddha’s own flower – hang ready outside for the Chonga Choepa to adorn the heads of guests celebrating Buddha’s birthday.
Monks chant sutras in his praise. Believers pray for happiness and good health. Yangdron, a Lhasa resident, lights no less than 108 lamps at her home. “I start to melt the butter two days before the festival,” she says. “It is an important day.”
As divine as they are decorative, the butter lamp is an emblem of the awakened self, a shield against the persistent darkness that can define one’s life.