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Saga Dawa Festival of Tibet

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A land of holy mountains and monasteries, Tibet has been a major tourist attraction to the world for many years now. There are many pilgrims and even tourists across the world that comes to Tibet every year for the pilgrimage trips or for trekking. The natural beauty of Tibet along with the holy significance of the Mount Kailash together has made the region a major landmark among the travel enthusiasts. The best time to visit Tibet is during the months of April, may, till September and October. If you are interested in the culture and people of the country, then you would also enjoy visiting the place during the months of saga dawa festival. This a very popular festival celebrated in the honor of lord Buddha in the Tibetan region during the mid April and this is a very significant celebration to a number of people from across the world. You can enjoy the actual essence of the Buddhist culture and history during the saga dawa festival tour. The history of the festival is very significant and the rituals are unique. If you are attempting the Kailash kora during April, you can easily include attending the saga dawa festival in your travel plan as well.

History of the festival

The saga dawa festival is celebrated by many people across the world in different ways. The Tibetan Buddhists in particular try to follow the sayings of Buddha and give alms and pray o this day. The acts of benevolence that your perform during the festival of saga dawa and the entire month of the festivals is by far more merited than what is done on a regular day. The Tibetans particularly refrain from killing any animals during this month of the festival. The Tibetans think of this time of the year as Buddha’s birthday but at the same time they also celebrate his achievement of enlightenment as well as his death on this day. The day is also called vesak among many Buddhists across the world and this name has been derived from the Sanskrit word “vaishakha”. During the first conference of the world fellowship of Buddhists resolved in 1950, to celebrate the full moon on the lunar month as a day on which they would honor Buddha. This day is still celebrated on different days in different parts of the world but saga dawa remains to be the most important festival of the Buddhists.

The story behind the festival

According to the Buddhists, there is a significant anecdote behind this celebration. When Buddha was on his death bed, he has instructed one of the followers that they should not merely honor him with incense sticks, flowers and lights but also take forward his teachings and follow them. They should propagate his teachings across the world and teach about compassion and kindness. He also urged the people not to weep at his death and remember that the human body is destructible but not the deeds of man or his soul. Soon after, this day is being celebrated as the day for honoring Buddha.

The rituals

Every year during the time of saga dawa, in place near the village from where the Kailash kora begins, the old prayer flag poles are taken down and the new flag poles are being put up in their place. The flags are allowed to fly in the air and this is believed to increase the potential chances of answering the prayers on the flags. According to the tradition, for the prayers to be successful, it is important that the poles are set upright and accurately. If the poles are not upright or there is trouble while setting the flag pole it means that Tibet is in trouble. The best in class pole setters are allowed to do this work on this auspicious day. The prayer flags are actually colorful flags with a certain player written on them. They represent the prayer of people and the prayers that they want to be fulfilled. The Tibetan tradition and worship, the rugged beauty of the mountains and the far away snow clad peaks altogether crates a spectacular ambience for the people who come here during the festivals.

Tibetan monks are celebrating Saga Dawa Festival

The main agenda of the festival is the pray and remembering Buddha and his teachings. It is also said that the goal of this festival is to pray for the long lives of the holy gurus of all the traditions and for survival and spreading of the teachings of Buddha in the mind of all people across the globe. The festival is also noted as a significant appeal for world peace as the Buddhists pray for peace on this day. The Buddhists go to the monasteries in the region to pray on this particular day. In Lhasa a large crowd gathers in front of the Potala palace and they pray lying down or standing in front of it. People are also seen to gather in the park called Dzongyab Lukhang Park which is located near the potala palace. The people light butter lamps. The butter lamps are unique and are made from clarified yak butter or else from vegetable oil that is kept in a bowl and a wick is placed in it. The light produced by such lamp is very eerie and smoky. The number of lamps when lit together creates a conducive ambience for meditation and focusing on the mind of the monks. The people and the monks light thousands of these lamps at the monasteries in the belief that if they want a sublime realization and enlightenment in life, it can only be achieved by offering hundreds of lights.

What to see during the saga dowa festival?

During the saga dowa festival there is various experiences that you can enjoy in the natural ambience of Tibet. There are hundreds of Tibetan people who circumambulate around the area of barkhor and tsekhor and lingkhor as pilgrims. There is the ritual of liberation of fishes in the Lhasa River which is an annual festivity that would be a unique experience to the tourists. Enjoy the solace of the mountains while the monks recite prayer at the assembly halls of monasteries and enjoy the butter tea which is a delicacy served at the various monasteries during the intermissions of the prayers. The solitude of the mountains amidst the quiet and peaceful rituals of the saga dawa festival is a very unique ambience that would be very much enjoyable to a peace loving audience.

There is religious dance to enjoy when celebrating Saga Dawa Festival

Things to remember

If you are planning to go to Tibet during the saga dawa festival, there are few things which you should keep in mind. The first and foremost thing would be to plan the trip much ahead of time. The booking for plane or train tickets should be done at the earliest to ensure that you get a confirmed booking. This is one of the busiest tourists season and hence it is very important to book at the earliest to get sure booking for the vehicles. This is a very major tourist season of Tibet and it is difficult to get accommodation and transport during this time of the year. Another factor is your luggage. Depending on the plans you have for the trip the luggage has to be planned. Do not overload your luggage if you are going for a trek as well. It is an absolute must that you get quality trekking shoes and sleeping bag for yourself when you are undertaking this tour. Proper protection for your photography gears is also essential during this trek journey. The identity proofs and the other documents for Tibet tour should always be kept at hand and you must ensure that you do not lose them.

Why visit during the saga dawa festival?

The saga dawa month is one of the busiest times of the year and many people do not like visiting Tibet when it is so crowded but at the same time there are many advantages associated with this time too. First and foremost is the climate. The weather is very beautiful and the overall climatic condition is perfect for a trip here. The month of the saga dawa festival is an auspicious festive month in the Tibetan calendar and you can enjoy the richness and peaceful beauty of the Tibetan culture in particular during this month. During this time of the year, a number of pilgrimage journey are also undertaken as well and you can easily take part in them too.

A boy holds his hands high for pilgrimage around Mount Kailash

Conclusion

The saga dawa festival is one of the top celebrations in Buddhism and people following Buddhism across the world celebrate this festival on various time of the year. However the month of April is considered the holiest and the saga dawa in Tibet is celebrated during this month. This is the largest celebration of the Tibetans. As tourists you can always be a part of this celebration as well and you would surely have memories for lifetime after you have witnessed the festival.

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