Saga Dawa Festival – Month of Merits
Saga Dawa is one of the most famous and biggest festivals of Sikkim, it is also known as the Triple Blessed Festival, celebrated by followers of Mahayana Buddhism. It is celebrated in the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar when the star of Saga appears in the sky.
Saga Dawa festival for the year 2023 will be celebrated on June 4, 2023 and the full moon day is called Saga Dawa Duchen. Saga means Fourth and Dawa means Month so that is the main reason Saga Dawa is celebrating every year Tibetan lunar calendar fourth month. This is a month-long festival that honors Buddha Sakyamuni whose birth, enlightenment, and nirvana all took place in the same month and reach their peak on the full moon day. Buddha Purnima Day is celebrated slightly earlier than Saga Dawa as it’s based on a different lunar calendar.
Sikkimese Buddhists celebrate the festival with prayers in monasteries throughout the month. The main celebration is done on the full moon day of this month which is also known as Buddha Purnima. It is believed that on this day Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and then parinirvana. Assuming that good deeds and prayers multiplied during this period, people are much more compassionate than usual.
The Jokhang chant around the temple and offer alms to the needy, avoiding killing animals. They release animals in their natural habitats with a sincere prayer like fish. More pilgrims visit Mount Kailash during the Saga Dawa festival to attend the flag-raising ceremony at Tarabache and kora around Mount, which is the biggest activity for Tibetan Buddhists.
So, it is believed that any merits that are collected during this month will have multiple effects. Therefore, avoiding negative deeds and engaging in positive deeds, especially during this month is advocated. Not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, not to take intoxicants, and avoid dark foods. There are many virtuous things you can do during this very special day. Put offerings on an altar, meditate, any Buddhist practice.
During this Saka Dawa month, at every monastery sutra are recited and ‘Cham’ dances are performed. It is said that good deeds in the month of this festival multiply 300-fold in return. Gods in the heavens are believed to descend to the mortal world on this day. Incense is burnt on a large scale and picnicking is enjoyed in the public parks. Along with remembering Buddha and his activities, the festival’s main point is to pray. Many say the goal of the festival season is to pray for the long life of all holy Gurus from all traditions, for the survival and spreading of Buddha’s teachings in the minds of all sentient beings, and for peace on earth.
Christmas is celebrated by Christian, Eid is celebrated by Muslims, Diwali is celebrated by Hindu and finally, Buddhists celebrate Saga Dawa. In Hindu tradition, this month is called Vaisakhi, and the full-moon day called Buddha Purnima. Sometimes, due to a discrepancy in the solar and lunar calendar, the celebration of the Buddha Purnima and Saka Dawa can differ as much as one month.
The Exciting History behind Saga Dawa Festival!!
It is believed the date of this festival was officially formalized at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950. And now the festival is celebrated across different countries under different names-
Sikkimese, as well as the Tibetans, celebrates it as Saga Dawa.
Many southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka celebrate it under the name of Vesak Day.
All across India except North-Eastern regions, the festival is commonly known as Buddha Purnima.
Rituals that constitute the Saga Dawa Festival
On the day of Saga Dawa-
All the lamps are lightening up in monasteries by the Mahayana Buddhists, which indicates allegiance to Lord Buddha who is believed to have enlightened their paths in life.
The ceremony is followed by a grand pageant in which Monks move along with Holy Scriptures, and chants hymn while moving forward.
This pageant travels around the entire city of Gangtok which is surely amazing to explore.
Folk Dances are performed by wearing colorful costumes.
Local delicious cuisines served to all the visitors.