Saga Dawa 2021 Date : Wednesday, 26th May
The Saga Dawa festival is one of the most important festivals for the people of Sikkim celebrated with much enthusiasm in the capital city Gangtok. The Mahayana Buddhist tradition recognizes the full moon day of the fourth month of the Buddhist calendar as the anniversary of Buddha's birth, his enlightenment, and his Nirvana. The day is celebrated by various names across India and abroad.
Saga Dawa is the one among the many ways in which devotees commemorate the day. Festivity occurs across Gangtok in the form of processions, prayers, and extending alms to the needy. The customs and rituals, carried out in remembrance of the Buddha, are said to bear fruits for the observers in the future.
Saga Dawa festival marks the birth anniversary, the death (or Nirvana) anniversary, and the anniversary of enlightenment of the Buddha. Each community of Buddhists, in different regions and countries, incorporate their traditional regional rituals in the celebration of the festival. The Mahayana Buddhists of Sikkim, who celebrate the day as Saga Dawa, have their customs to observe the festival.
The Mahayana Buddhist devotees gather in the monasteries and light butter candles, in remembrance of Buddha, who is considered as the one to enlighten the path of life of his followers.
The onlookers find delight in the large procession that is carried out by the Mahayana monks and devotees through the streets of Gangtok. The parade starts from the Tsuk La Khang Monastery and is led by the monks through the streets of the city. Hymns are chanted as the procession moves on the roads, carrying idols of the Buddha, and the Holy Scriptures of the Mahayana tradition.
Giving alms to the needy is a virtue, which is carried out throughout the month, conforming to the message of the Buddha's life. Masks play an important role in almost all the festivals of the mountainous regions of the country, so is the case with Saga Dawa, when several masked monks can be found in the processions.
The sacred scripture, called 'Kajur texts' are read throughout the month, along with the practice of charity to the needy. The devotees gather in the procession to seek blessings of the sacred ceremony revering the Buddha. The monks chant the mantra of 'Om mani Padme hum' as the procession makes way through the streets of Gangtok. It provides for a most soothing of sights.
Amidst the beautiful mountains of the Indian state of Sikkim, lies the equally beautiful city of Gangtok. Gangtok is a major Buddhist pilgrim site because it has some of the most significant Buddhist temples and monasteries in the country, such as the Enchey Monastery and the Phodong monastery. The city of Gangtok is a significant place for the Buddhists and is an established pilgrim site since the decade 1840s. The provisions of hiking and trekking make the city a more sought-after destination to visit. A significant figure of 28% of the population in Gangtok is that of people following the Buddhist faith. Thus, a celebration on the birth anniversary of the Buddha in a grand manner is naturally expected.
Buddha happens to be one of the most influential preachers of any religion to be ever born in India. His birth anniversary is commemorated in different ways, with various rituals, by different names in different parts of the country and the world. While the day of his birth, according to the Buddhist Calendar, is celebrated as Vesak Day in countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, it is known as Buddha Purnima in much of India except for the north-east region of the country. Other regions celebrated the day as Buddha Jayanti or Buddha day. In the state of Sikkim, and thus in the capital city of Gangtok, the day is celebrated by the name of Saga Dawa.
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