LHASA, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Rows of seated monks chant sutras. Scores of pious followers slowly pour butter in temple lanterns. Eminent buddhists debate over Tibetan classics.
In Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, locals started the annual celebration of Monlam in myriad temples on Thursday, praying for peace and harmony in the world.
Monlam, also known as the Grand Prayer Festival, was established in memory of the Sakyamuni Buddha in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Festive activities at major temples in Tibet drew huge crowds.
On Thursday morning, tourists and believers stood in awe in the audience hall of Lhasa's Sera Monastery, as four eminent monks debated Buddhist scripture.
Among the audience was Wang Yan, a tourist from Handan City, north China's Hebei Province. Wang visited Tibet in August, but she said she could not to miss the Grand Prayer Festival.
"This is the first time I have observed the sutra debate, it was quite impressive," Wang said. "Although I did not understand the language, the ambience was unforgettable."
Outside Drepung Monastery in west Lhasa, families were gathering to pray for good luck, with hada in hand. Hada is a piece of silk used as a greeting gift among locals.
A major religious event in Tibet, the Grand Prayer Festival is celebrated in the first month of the Tibetan New Year. Activities are typically centered around Tibet's renowned temples such as Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery and Ganden Monastery.
The festival will last for one week.