These Festivals of Sikkim Should be on Your Travel Checklist- Part I

These Festivals of Sikkim Should be on Your Travel Checklist- Part I
Buddhist monks during festivities at the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim , Photo Credit: Shutterstock

People in Sikkim take part in each other’s festivals and experience religious harmony

Kavita Rai
May 11 , 2021
09 Min Read

Sikkim being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state sees the celebration of festivals all year round. People in Sikkim take part in each other’s festivals and experience religious harmony. While there are festivals that are common to the world and India, the tribal festivals are connected directly with either the sowing or the harvesting seasons.

Maghey Sankrati
The year begins with the celebration of around 14th January, this is celebrated by everyone. It starts with a cold bath, traditionally in a nearby stream and then anointing the forehead with a small bit of raw wild yam. The day is marked by eating buckwheat pakoras and all kinds of boiled tubers like, various kinds of taro, purple yam, wild yam, cassava, sweet potato, chayote tuber etc. On this day, there are fairs in various towns which is a source of much enjoyment for everyone, the most prominent one being Jorethang’s Maghey Mela.

Sonam Lochar

 
 
 
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In the 1st week of February the Tamang community celebrates their New Year, and the Tibetans celebrate their New Year, Losar. The festival is celebrated with great joy and merriment. The families and relatives organize feasts and visit each other.

Janmasthami
The birthday of Lord Krishna or a popular practice is to make a temporary altar and install a cucumber with the belief that as the clock strikes 12 midnight the cucumber will turn into Lord Krishna, many refrain from eating cucumber on that day.

It is also a favorite festival, especially amongst mothers with toddlers; they dress up their kids as Lord Krishna. The month of sawan is auspiciously observed by many — women and girls wear henna and green bangles and turn vegetarian for the entire month.

Bhanu Jayanti

 
 
 
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Held on 13th of July it is celebrated by everyone in Sikkim; it is the birth anniversary of the Nepali poet Bhanubhakta Acharya who is regarded as Adikavi or the first poet of Nepali literature. Students perform plays, have poem recitation competition, and essay competitions in Nepali language.

Indrajatra and Kumarijatra
The Pradhan community celebrate these festivals (Aug/Sept) with long colorful processions, marked by lively music and dance and being taken out around towns.

Sakewa

 
 
 
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The Rai community celebrates this festival twice in a year, the first one just before the sowing season to ask for a good crop and the second one just after the harvest season thanking for the good harvest. During both the celebrations, spirits of dead ancestors and the spirit of nature is invoked. There is a good amount of dancing called sili.

Sikkim’s Bhutia community has several important festivals during the year.

Saga Dawa
Another name for Buddha Purnima, which happens around June, is considered one of the most auspicious days. This full moon night is believed to be the night of triple blessings — Buddha’s birth, attainment of enlightenment, and attainment of nirvana. A long procession of monks and devotees carrying holy scriptures is taken out around the towns where people bow in reverence before them.

Drukpa Tshechi

 
 
 
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This is another important celebration to commemorate the First Sermon given by Buddha and is held in the month of August. There are prayers and chantings organised in the monasteries.

Pang Lhabsol
Masked dancers during Pang Lhabsol celebrations

This festival is celebrated by Bhutia and Lepcha communities to pay homage to Mount Kanchendzonga and the other deities of Sikkim and the hidden religious treasures. A mask dance and a sword dance are performed in Rabong and Gangtok.

Lasoong/Namsoong
The festival held in December is marked by spectacular mask dances that happen in front of the monasteries. Lasoong is celebrated by Bhutias and Namsoong by Lepchas as their new year and the end of harvest season. Extended families meet up for feasts and merrymaking.

Kagyed Dance Festival

 
 
 
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It is one of the most important events in the religious calendar and held two days ahead of Lasoong/ Namsoong festivals.

Guru Rinponche’s Thunkar Tshechu
The birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava is also celebrated with dances at Rumtek Monastery and a long procession with his statue is taken around nearby towns.

Tendong Lho Rum Faat

 
 
 
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In the month of August the Lepcha community comes together to trek up to the summit of Tendong Hill to offer prayers and gratitude to the hill, which is believed to have saved the community from the great flood – the townspeople climbed Tendong Hill to escape from the swirling flood waters. The celebration is marked by Lepcha cuisine dances and costumes.

Teyongsi Sirijunga Sawan Tongnam
This is celebrated in the month of December on the birth anniversary of the great Limboo Scholar Sirijunga. Various events in the Limboo language are also organised.

Barahimizong
 It is celebrated in the month of December as a harvest festival by the Mangar community. Tamu Lochar It is celebrated by the Gurung community to mark their New Year. Great gatherings of extended families meet and celebrate with elaborate local feasts.


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