|Thousands of white papers flutter in the air and land like snowfall on the celebrated hill, one of Ritoma’s four sacred peaks. They are printed with the Wind Horse, a galloping jewel-bearing horse, a symbol of good luck for the wind to carry far across the plateau. On the designated spot, fresh prayer flags are strung up, family staffs are added, and prayers are recited while making offerings of barley, grains and milk. The locals circle the tops of the sacred area, dressed in their best, accompanied by prized horses. They shout for the victory of the gods – Lha Gya Lo! It is the season of “lhatses.”
In Tibetan areas, each clan, village and area has its own celebrated lhatse, a mountain top that is the abode of a particular local deity. Once a year, the members of the clan or village assemble to pay tribute to this deity. This usually takes place during the summer months and it is an opportunity for nomads to dress in their finest and gather from near and far. Horse races and various local games follow the morning prayers and can continue for as long as three days with the men spending the nights in tents, talking and laughing long into the early hours of dawn. Feasts of momos and boiled meat are prepared and for many this is seen as a celebration of summer – a short and much prized period on the plateau where the weather is mild, the days long and the pasture is a green expanse speckled in wild flowers. Some lhatse celebrations are drenched by summer downpours, though this doesn’t dampen the celebrations. Rain is a part of the life-giving nature of the plateau.
Norlha observes holidays during the main lhatses in the area, a total of six days annually. The grandest and largest local lhatse brings together in celebration a thousand horses and their owners, and nomads from over a thousand families.