Celebrated on the full moon day of the fourth month of Buddhist lunar date-book (towards the end of May and early June), Saga Dawa is considered to be one of the most significant festivals celebrated in Sikkim. It’s a time of magnificent carnival where the people of Sikkim, especially the Mahayana Buddhists gather in temples and pay due honor to the Lord who has endowed them with the precious gift of life. The highlight of Saga Dawa festival is marked by the procession, in which holy books comprising the teachings of Lord Buddha are carried from Tsuk-La-Khang Monastry through the streets of Gangtok.
Drupka Teshi is a Buddhist festival celebrated in Sikkim on the 4th day of the 6th month according to the Tibetan calendar that falls somewhere around August to observe Buddha’s first preaching of the “Noble Truths” at the deer park in Sarnath. It is celebrated with much zeal and splendor. On this day prayers are offered at the Deer Park and at Muguthang in North Sikkim and concluded with a Yak race, which is the highlight of the celebration. The festival is one great opportunity for the travelers to experience and indulge in the vibrant culture and traditions of the state.
It’s a vibrant festival of colors and joy when the locals offer prayers to Mount Khangchendzonga thanking him and asking him to continue protecting Sikkim. It also celebrates the brotherhood between Lepchas and the Bhutias and is based on the concept of love preached by Lord Buddha. Held on the 15th day of the 7th month around the end of August, the streets display an array of colors with spectacular warrior dancers covered in masks.
The festival is celebrated at the Tashiding Monastery in West Sikkim in the month of January with Lamas opening the Bumchu for public display. ‘Bum’ means ‘pot or vase’ and ‘chu’ means water. The holy water is also distributed among the devotees after which it is sealed back until next year. It is said that the holy water in the Bumchu has not dried up in ages and still smells fresh. In this festival, the amount of holy water in the pot or the Bumchu is said to predict the fate of Sikkim for the entire year. For instance, if the water overflows the pot, it predicts that the upcoming year will be a disturbed year and in case the water level is low, it implies impending ailments and diseases which may befall on the people of the state. Bumchu Festival attracts thousands of devotes from all around the neighboring states.
KAGYAT DANCE FESTIVAL
Performed on every 28th and 29th day of the tenth month of Tibetan calendar which falls somewhere around December-January of the English calendar, Kagyat is a very popular dance festival of Sikkim. It enacts a variety of themes from the Buddhist mythology through the medium of a spectacular mask dance and extravagant demonstration of perfect footwork and grace, accompanied by liturgical music and chanting. The grave idea of the dance moves is sprinkled with light hearted element provided by the jesters. The ritual dance culminates with the burning of effigies made of flour, wood and paper symbolizing the destruction of the forces of evil.
Rumtek Monastery is well known for its ‘chaams’- the traditional lama dance. On this day, homage is paid to Guru Rimpoche who was the first to introduce Buddhism in Sikkim in the 8th century. The ‘Chaams’ are performed 2 days prior to the Tibetan New Year. The dances in Rumtek celebrates the various episodes of Guru Rimpoche’s life and his battle against the forces of evil.
Losoong or ‘The Sikkimese New Year’ is the time of an extravagant and spectacular carnival in Sikkim. According to the Tibetan calendar, the festival falls on the 18th day of the 10th month of every year which is generally in the month of December- a time when the farmers celebrate the harvest. Besides the Bhutias and Lepchas, Lossong is also celebrated by the Nepalese, Sikkimese and other Tribal communities of Sikkim, Darjeeling and Nepal with great pomp and grandeur.
Dashain is one of the most important festivals of the Nepali community in Sikkim. Lasting for about 15 days, the festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm every year. The festivals spreads the message of love with relatives visiting each other with gifts and every household are cleansed thoroughly and adorned with the best to welcome the Goddess. Very similar to ‘Durga Puja’, the festival celebrates the victory of the divine power over the evil force.
Enchey cham is the annual ‘chaam’ or dance performed every year by the Lamas of the Enchey monastery on the 18th and 19th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar i.e. in the month of December. The crowd gathers with great enthusiasm and thrill to experience the colorful and splendid dance put up by the Lamas clad in elaborate costumes and masks.
Losar or ‘The Tibetan New year’ is a very grand and elaborate festival extending for about 15 days. It is celebrated in the month of February with great fervor and enthusiasm. On this day people visit the monasteries to offer prayers and express their gratitude and pay visit to their relatives and friends and exchange their best regards.