Crowds of Tibetans, young and old, bathed themselves in the Lhasa River on Saturday despite the early autumn chill on the Tibet Plateau.
"The water is chilly, so start with your feet. The sun is blazing and the water will soon feel warm enough," said 60-year-old Droma to Deyki, a quiet young woman who was hesitating whether to get into the water. "Come on, you can't afford to miss the fun of bathing."
The bathing festival, known in Tibetan as "Karma Rigkyi", is a week-long holiday that falls in the seventh or eighth month of the Tibetan calendar.
This year, the bathing week lasts from Sept. 9 to 15, or the 14th to 20th day in the eighth month of the Tibetan calendar.
The Tibetans traditionally believe the river water, which comes from the melting plateau snow, has healing effects and can wash away diseases.
Ancient literature on Tibetan herbal medicine also describes the water at this particular time as "sweet", "good for the throat and stomach" and "having cleansing and healing effects".
Throughout the bathing week, therefore, rivers and streams across the plateau region are filled with bathing crowds who swim, splash and pray for good health.
The bathing festival is often a time for massive cleaning, as some people also do their laundries in the river, including their whole family's clothing to bedding.
It is also a social occasion, as many people bring their tents and picnic and spend a whole day by the river, chatting and flying kites after bathing themselves.
"I like the traditional ways of life despite all the modern lifestyles and entertainment," said Dondrup, a 20-something man. "These centuries-old traditions often bring back sweet memories of my childhood and touch the deepest, softest part of my heart."
Dondrup, a driver, was washing his car with the river water after bathing himself.