Date: from the sixth to the 12th of the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar
The Tibetan Bathing Festival is one of traditional festivals in Tibet. Since it lasts seven days, it is also known as the Bathing Week.
The seventh month of the Tibetan calendar is thought the best time for bathing in Tibet. It is the time when the rain season has just ended and the sunshine has become caressing. What's more, the water temperature near riverbanks will exceed 20 degrees centigrade at the time.
Therefore, when the sacred planet Venus appears for one week in the southern sky, all the people in Tibet go into the river for bathing. They take carts or ride horses, bring buttered tea, wine and food together with them, set up tents or big umbrellas along rivers and then enjoy the whole day of bathing.
Usually, Tibetans start the day with washing their quilts, clothes and shoes in the river first. At the noontime, when the temperature of the river water goes up, they jump into the river naked. Male and female, young and old, swim, play games and bath themselves all together. In the afternoon, most people like having a party inside tents or under trees, where they drink, sing, dance and make a lot of fun until Venue reappear in the sky. They then pack up everything they bring and go back home separately.
The Bathing Festival has at least seven or eight hundred years of history in Tibet where prevails many legends about its origin. Here is one of the stories: Once upon a time, there was a great doctor living in Tibet called the Medicine King due to his magic skill. When he died, be became a god living in the heaven. One year, a terrible epidemic struck the whole Tibetan area, killing numerous people and cattle. Tibetans then turned to the Medicine King, praying for his help to relieve their distress. When the Medicine King heard their praying, he turned himself into a bright star. When the star shone over the hills, all plants on the hills became medicine. When the star shone over the rivers, the water in the river was turned into medicine liquid, too.
In this night, everyone in Tibet had the same dream: a new bright star rose in the sky over southeastern Lhasa and a dark slim girl went into the clear Lhasa River to bathe herself in starlight. When she got out of the water, she became healthy and beautiful. It was widely believed that the dream was a magic implication given by the Medicine King himself and Tibetans then all went into the river to bathe themselves. After seven days, the new star disappeared from the sky, together with the epidemic on the earth. All the sick had recovered from their illness. Since then, Tibetans used to bathe themselves in the river during this seven-day period and later developed it into a festival.
Tibetan astronomical documents say that at the time between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, the river water is sweet, cool, soft, light, clear and not smelly. Drinking it will do harm neither to throat nor to abdomen. Therefore, the Bathing Festival is said the best time for Tibetans to get bath and cleaning.