Festivals of Sikkim
The two day festival of dance performed during the worship of snowy range of Kanchanjunga (Khang-chen-dzod-nga) is a dance peculiar to Sikkim alone. It is celebrated in September. The third Chogyal of Sikkim, Chador Namgyal (1686-1716) introduced this dance about two and a half centuries ago as a result of a vision. Kanchanjunga is about 40 km from Gangtok and is the most unifying force in the myth and identity of the state. Khang-chen-dzod-nga means the five treasures represented by five summits of this gigantic mountain. According to tradition the five treasures are salt, precious stones, religious scripts, medicines and grains and invincible armour. Sikkimese believe that their prosperity and even their lives depend on the good humour of the deity, for he has the power to destroy human habitations with devastating floods and avalanches, wash away their bridges and ruin their crops by sending terrible hail storms down the valleys. Kanchendzonga is portrayed as a fiery red - countenanced deity with a crown of five skulls, riding the mythical snow lion and holding aloft the banner of victory. Esoteric masks, flashing silks, opulent brocades and embroidered boots are the costumes of the dancers. This mask dance is termed as Singhi Dance i.e., Lion Dance by Nepalese. They visualize the ferocious god of Kanchanjunga riding over a lion and hence call this dance as Singhi Dance.
On Lossoong, the Sikkimese New Year Day, Black Hat (kali topi) Dance demonstrating the triumph of good over evil is demonstrated. This masked dance is also performed by male dancers mostly the Lamas. The dance revives the old story which narrates that about twelve centuries ago King Land-Darma was slain for suppressing Buddhism in Tibet. The king was slain by a Lama wearing a fantastic black robe lined with white and riding a white horse blackened with soot.
Celebrated on full moon day of the 4th month in the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, around end of May and early June, Saga Dawa is a very important festival for the Buddhists. This day is considered to be the holiest of the holy Buddhist Festival. On this day Lord Buddha took birth, achieved Enlightenment and passed away attaining Nirvana.
This festival is held on the 15th day of the 7th month around the end of August. This festival is unique to Sikkim. Popularized by the 3rd Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, Chakdor Namgyal, this festival marks the signing of the treaty of brotherhood between the Lepchas and the Bhutias by Khye Bumsa and Tetong Tek when the local deities and the snowy ranges of Khanchendzonga are worshiped. The lamas portraying the guardian deity perform colorful masked dances. Jesters called ‘Atchars‘, lighten the mood of the spectators, who come in hordes to witness this festival.
It is the Tibetan New year and is marked with a lot of gaiety and festivity. It falls normally in the month of February.
Also known as Durga Puja, this fortnight long Hindu festival usually falls in the month of October. The festival symbolizes the victory of the Hindu Goddess Durga over evil. Barley seeds are sown in the soil on the first day of this festival and their growth foretells good harvest. A week later is “Phulpati “ meaning the day of flowers, followed by Maha Astami and Kala Ratri and Navami. The 10th day of the festival is known as Vijay Dashmi and also marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. During this day people smear their foreheads with colored rice and the barley sprouts, which was sown on the first day of Dasain, are picked and placed over the ears.
Tihar is the “Festival of Light “ and symbolizes the return of Lord Ram to his hometown from exile after victory over Ravana and covers a period of five days. The festival honors certain animals on successive days. The first day, known as a “Kak Tihar is dedicated to crows which are offered rice. On the second day, which is known as “Kukkur Tihar”, dogs are garlanded. On the third day, the cows are honored with garland and their horns are painted in bright colours. It is the turn of bullocks on the fourth day. Deepali, which falls on the third day is considered to be the most important day when goddess Lakshmi comes visiting every home which is lit bright with candles and electric lights. The fifth day is also known as Bhai Tika in which brothers visit the home of sisters and they apply tikas vermilion to each other’s forehead. It is also an occasion for exchanging gifts. During Tihar, traditional carols called Bailo or Deusi are sung.
This festival falls in the month of January and marks the lengthening of days. Fetes are held on banks of the confluence of rivers. This is one festival were people from all walks of life attend.
Gutor Cham is performed two days prior to Losar or the Tibetan New Year, this Cham or dance depicts the battle between good and the evil and the ritualised destruction of evil.
Bhumchu at Tashiding
The Bhumchu which takes palce on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calander,around February-March ,is one of Sikkim's most intriguing festivals. The water contained in the sacred Phumba or vase is measured into 21 cups of equal measure. The level of water is studied to divine the fortunes of Sikkim for the next year. Devotees from Nepal, Bhutan and the neighbouring hills all come for blessings.
This festival celebrates Lord Buddha's first preaching of the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples at Saranath.. The festival is held on the 4th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. Prayers are conducted in the main monastery.
Tendong Lho Rum Faat
On the8th of August, the Lepachas worship Mount Tendong which they believe saved their race from destruction by a great flood. While the Lepcha 'Bongthings' or priests worship Mt. Tendong in South Sikkim, the Lepchas in Gangtok take part in day long cultural and literary programmes in their traditional costumes.
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