Tarma is a traditional festival in Gyantse in the Tsang region. With more than 600 years of history, this festival mainly features horse races and archery.
Originating in Gyantse, this festival is a commemorative event. It is said that Phagpa Sangpo, whose grandson Rabdain-gongsangs-paba would become the Gyantse Hierarch in 1408, was the minister of interior affairs of the Sakya Regime and won high respect among the locals. After he died, his disciples held sacrificial ceremonies every year to commemorate him, but the practice was cut off during the wars. When Rabdain-gongsangs-pada became the Gyantse Hierarch, the commemorations were able to resume. The memorial services lasted from the 10th to the 27th days of the fourth month on the Tibetan calendar. Recreational activities were staged after the memorial services. The hierarch’s subordinates, servants and soldiers displayed Buddha’s portrait, staged religious dances and horse shows and engaged in wrestling matches. In 1447, Tashi Rabten took control of Gyantse and added horse races and archery to the recreations. This marked the formation of the Gyantse Tarma Festival.
Today, the Gyantse Tarma Festival is held every year and usually lasts three days. Religious ceremonies are held on the first day while preparations are made for the games. Horse races are held on the second day, followed by archery on the last. After the games, people go to the linka woods in the suburbs for a joyous feast.
During the festival, all performers are dressed up in ancient costumes such as soldiers and officials. But in addition to traditional shows, there are many modern games. Tibetans from all over the plateau dress up for this occasion and bring meticulously prepared food to enjoy with friends old and new, large amounts of goods and produce are traded at this event. The Tarma Festival has become a name card for Gyantse, drawing numerous tourists and businesses every year.