Tamu Lhosar marks the beginning of the Tamu Sambat or Gurung Calendar Year. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the Nepali month Poush every year. The Gurungs, also called Tamu, are the indigenous population of west-central Nepal known for their bravery and cultural heritage. The word Lhosar originates from “Lho” meaning Year and “sar” meaning New. Tamu Lhosar day signifies the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring, and is an occasion of great rejoicing for the Gurung community.
The Gurung calendar closely follows the Tibetan calendar with 12 animals representing a cycle of 12 years. The animals include vulture, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog, deer, mouse, cow, tiger and cat, with each animal conventionally marking one year.
On Tamu Lhosar day, people from the community dress in colorful traditional attire and visit various Buddhist shrines such as Swoyambhu, Bouddha and Kapan. They receive blessings from the monks for their happiness, progress and prosperity. Flags are erected on the rooftops of all houses, and friends, relatives and well-wishers get together to exchange greetings and gifts. Delicious food, including sel roti (Nepali Bread) and achaar (Nepali pickles), is savored with the accompaniment of music and dance. Home-made alcohol called raksi is also consumed.
The Government of Nepal has declared a national holiday to celebrate the Lhosar festival. Several programs including traditional dances, rallies and Gurung sports are organized in Kathmandu on this day. In the United States also, expatriates from the Tamu Gurung community celebrate the occasion at various places such as Pittsburgh-Pennsylvania, St. Paul-Minnesota and Nashville-Tennessee.