The fairs and festivals in Sikkim are celebrated according to Buddhist calendar. During these festivals the people of Sikkim perform colorful dance and music. Chaam is one of the most interesting form of ritual dance of the Lamas, which feature colorful masks and charming musical instruments and are held at various monasteries during the festivals. Costumed Lamas with gaily painted masks, ceremonial swords and sparkling jewels, leap and swing to the rhythm of drums, horns and music. Some of the festivals which are celebrated in Sikkim are Losoong, Bumchu, Saga Dawa and Phang Lhabsol.
Saga Dawa is the triple blessed festival. This festival is considered as one of the holiest Buddhist festival for the Mahayana Buddhists. On this day the people visit monasteries and worship and offer butter lamps. Three important events connected to the life of Buddha are celebrated in this festival. These events are the Birth of Lord Buddha, Enlightenment taken by Lord Buddha and death of Lord Buddha or attaining Nirvana. This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the 4th month of Buddhist lunar calendar around the end of May and early June. This festival is celebrated in Gangtok. On this day the monks carry the Holy Books of the Lord Buddha from the Tsuk-La-Khang monastery around the town in a large procession.
Drukpa Teshi festival is celebrated by the Buddhists. This festival is celebrated as on this day the Buddha preached his first sermon of four Noble Truths to his five disciples at a deer park in Sarnath. The first Noble Truth is the Noble Truth of suffering. The Second Noble Truth is
the truth of the origin of suffering Karma and Delusion and their causes. The third Noble Truth is the cessation of the suffering or the attainment of Nirvana. The fourth Noble Truth is the truth of the Eight Fold Path leading to Nirvana. This day is celebrated on the fourth day (Teshi) of the sixth month (Drukpa) of the Tibetan calendar in the month of July or August every year. This festival is celebrated in Gangtok where the prayers are held at the Deer Park and at Muguthang in extreme North Sikkim and a Yak race is also held during the festival.
The word Phang means witness. Phang Lhabsol is a unique festival of Sikkim which was popularized by the third king of Sikkim, Chakdor Namgyal. In this festival the Mount Kanchendzonga is worshipped for its unifying powers. In this festival the treaty of blood brotherhood was also signed between the Lepchas and Bhutias by Khye Bumsa and Tetong Tek and the local deities were also invited to witness the occasion. On this day, the guardian deity is portrayed by masked Lama dances as a fiery red-faced deity with a crown of five skulls, riding a snow lion. To lighten the mood of the spectators, jesters called 'Atchars' play antics during the Chaams. The monks also performs the Pang-Toed dance and spectacular Warrior Dance, with its intricate steps and leaps accompanied by the martial war-cries on this day. This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month around the end of August.
Losar is the Tibetan New Year and is marked with lot of gaiety, festivity, feasting and merrymaking. It normally falls around the first week of February.
The Bumchu festival is celebrated at the Tashiding monastery in the West Sikkim in the month of January. The word 'Bum' means pot or vase and 'Chu' means water. During this festival, the pot that contains the Holy water is opened by the Lamas of the monastery. A part of the holy water is distributed amongst the devotees and the pot is replenished with water and sealed at the end of the festival which is
opened only in the next Bumchu. The level of water in the pot foretells the future for the forthcoming year. If the water is up to the brim, it predicts that there would be bloodshed and disturbances. If the pot is almost dry it signifies famine and if it is half full, it predicts the year in which peace and prosperity will be there
The Lhabab Dhuechen festival symbolises the Descent of Buddha from the heaven of the thirty three gods after visiting his mother. Dhuechen means festival, Lha means heaven and Bab means descent. According to the legends, the Queen Maha Maya, the mother of Lord Buddha, did not live long his birth and took rebirth in Trayastrimsa or the heaven of the thirty gods. After attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha through spiritual powers came to know about the whereabouts of his mother and at the age of forty one ascended to the heaven along with thousands of his followers. Lord Buddha stayed in heaven for three months during which he delivered sermons to his mother and other celestial beings. Lord Buddha had left behind on earth one of his disciples, Maudgalyayana, as his representative. This disciple and other devotees of the Lord could not bear the long separation and longed to hear his preaching. Maugalyayana, who possessed miraculous powers, was exhorted to go up to the heaven to request the Lord to retun back to the earth. The gods were not willing to let Lord Buddha return back to the earth but Maugalyayana suggested that as the earthly beings did not have the powers to visit heaven, the celestial beings could come to the earth to attend his preaching. Lord Buddha finally relented and descended to the earth at a place called Sankasya along a triple ladder that was prepared especially for the occasion by Vishwakarma, the God of Machines.
The Losoong festival is celebrated on the occasion of the end of the harvest season and the end of the tenth month of the Tibetan Year in the rural Sikkim. On this festival, the Chaam dances are performed at the Tsu-La-Khang monastery, Phodong monastery and Rumtek monastery. Archery competitions are also held amidst feasting and merry making. This dance symbolize the victory of the good spirits over the evil spirits of the year. During the dance the men become gods and attires with mystical symbols.
More or less occurring a few weeks before Losoong festival, the Dasain festival is the main festival of the Hindu Nepalese in Sikkim. This festival signifies the victory of good over evil. The elders of the family apply 'tika' on the young and bless them.
The Tihaar festival is celebrated as the Festival of Lights in Sikkim, which corresponds to the Indian Festival of Lights. This festival is celebrated with the lighting of the lamps accompanied with traditional carolling called Deusi and Bhailo.
Tendong Lho Rum Faat festival is specific to the Lepchas and marks the celebration of the Tendong Hill. According to the legend, the hill had risen like a horn during a great flood to save the Lepchas.
The Kagyed Dance is performed on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan Calendar, in the month of December. This dance symbolizes the destruction of the evil forces and prevailing of the peace and prosperity in Sikkim. The Chaam dancers are extremely popular. Chaams are the monks who are accompanied with the liturgical music and chanting. Some sort of the comic relief is also provided by the jesters with the dance. In this dance, various themes from the Buddhist mythology are enacted and it culminates with the burning of effigies made of flour, wood and paper.
Tantrayana is one of the path by which one can attain Nirvana or Enlightenment and Freedom from Suffering. Tantrayana emphasizes on the Tantric or mystic aspect of Buddhism and involves complex and esoteric rituals. The Anutara Yoga Tantra or Supreme Tantra is one of the class of Tantrayana which combines male tantras and female tantras out of which Kalchakra is one of
the deities. The rituals and meditations which are performed to Kalchakra with the main aim of attaining Nirvana is known as the Kalchakra Puja. Presently, the Dalai Lama, is the ultimate authority in teachings of Kalchakra Puja in which His Holiness performs to initiate the disciples. The Dalai Lama holds the Kalchakra Mass Initiation Puja usually once in three years which attracts the devotees from all over the world. Kalchakra deity is usually represented in union with his female consort Vishwamata. The body of Kalchakra is blue in colour and has multiple necks, shoulders and faces. The many hands of Kalchakra hold various implements. Viswatma, the consort of Kalchakra, has a yellow coloured body, four faces and eight hands. The Kalchakra Puja centers around the ‘Mandala’ which consists of the rituals, offerings and the deities concerned with the Puja. For the initiation ceremony, the Dalai Lama first prepares the disciple who have to take the tantric vows. The disciple is then initiated in a complex procedure which includes rituals that involves water, crown and the ubiquitous Vajra (Thunderbolt). Now the disciple can practice the tantras diligently with the ultimate aim to attain Nirvana.