The native religion of Tibet was called Bon which is
said to be founded by Shenrab Mibo. This religion was
fused and refined by Buddhism by Guru Padmasambva and
birth to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism. The Red Hat Sect was
further reformed by Atisha and the Kadampa sect was established.
Tsong-kha-pa modified the Kadampa and led to the formation of
the Yellow Sect.
Tibetan Buddhism is therefore divided into the Red and Yellow
Sects. The Red Sect comprises of the Nyingma, Kargya and Sakya
lineages and the Yellow Sect consists of the Gelugpa lineaga.
Whereas the Nyingma Sect is associated with Guru Padmasambva,
the founders of Kargyu and Sakya are said to be Marpa and Sakya
Muni respectively. The sects and the lineages are differentiated
from each other by the rituals performed, monastic discipline
and the founder. However the differences tend to blur with
rituals of one lineage overlapping the other.
The Tibetan sacred books are called the Kanjur and the Tanjur.
The Kanjur correspond to the teachings of the Buddha whereas the
Tanjur are related to the teachings to the Bodhisattvas. Each
year of the Buddhist calendar is named after an animal.
fortnight long festival usually falls in the month of October.
Also known as Durga Puja, this festival symbolizes the victory
of the Hindu Goddess Durga over the forces of evil. On the first
day barley seeds are sown in the soil and their growth a few
inches foretells a good harvest. The next important day, a week
later is Fulpati meanintgt the "day of flowers". Maha Astami and
Kala Ratri follow Fulpati. The next day is 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 coloured rice and the barley sprouts which
were sown on the first day of Dasain are picked and place over
Tihar is the "Festival of Lights" and symbolises the return of
Lord Ram to his hometown from exile after victory over Ravana
and covers a period of five days. The festival honours certain
animals on successive days. The first day known as "Kak Tihar"
is dedicated to crows and they are offered rice and some if
caught are even garlanded. On the second day, which is known as
"Kukkur Tihar", dogs are garlanded. On the third day the cows
are honoured with garlands and their horns are painted in bright
colours. It is the turn of the bullocks on the fourth day.
Diwali, 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
homes of their sisters and they apply tikas vermilion to each
other foreheads. 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 honours the
Hindu Goddess of knowledge "Saraswati". School children place
their study books in front of the statue and seek blessings for
doing well in their studies.
This festival takes place in mid January. Makar sankranti
signifies the day the sun enters the constellation of makar or
capricorm. It marks beginning of the lengthening of days. Fairs
are held on the banks of the confluence of rivers. It is an
occasion for villagers to gather, meet each other and make
This festival commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna.
BISWA KARMA PUJA
This festival takes place on 17th September every year and
honour Vishwa Karma - the God of Machines, statues of this deity
are put up in temporary sheds called pandals and worshipped
especially by those who are involved in handling machines like
drivers and mechanics.
is the Triple Blessed Festival and is considered as the holiest
of the holy Buddhist Festivals. On this day in different years
of his life, Lord Buddha took birth, achieved Enlightenment and
passed away attaining Nirvana, three important events celebrated
in the festival of Saga Dawa.
Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini in Nepal to King Sudhodhna and
Queen Maha Maya of the Sakya Clan around 560 BC. He was named
Sidhartha and his parents took all the pains to make his life
comfortable and keep him ensconced from the miseries of the
world. At the age of twenty nine, realisation dawned upon Prince
Siddhartha that all the worldly pleasures were transient and
unreal and that the ultimate truth lay elsewhere. He renounced
the world and after wandering for many years in search of the
truth reached Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh (India), where he
meditated under the Bodhi trees and attained Enlightenment at
the age of thirty five. Buddha, the Enlightened One, left for
his heavenly abode at the age of eighty one at Kusinara on
attaining Nirvana or deliverance into bliss.
At Gangtok a highlight of Saga Dawa is the procession carrying
the Holy books of the teachings of Buddha from the Tsuklakhang
Monastery in the Palace around the town.
This festival is held on the full moon of the 4th month of the
Buddhist calendar around the end of May and early June.
festival symbolises the Descent of Buddha from the heaven of the
thirty three gods after visiting his mother. Dhuechen means
festivals, Lha means heaven and Bab means descent.
Legends says that Queen Maha Maya, the mother of Lord Buddha,
did not live long after 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 heavens 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 preachings, Maugalyayana, who possessed
miraculous powers, was exhorted to go up to the heaven to
request the Lord to return back to the earth. The gods were not
willing to let Lord Buddha return back to earth but Maugalyana
suggested that as the earthly beings did not have the powers to
visit heaven, the celestial being 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 Viswakarma, the
God of Machines.
festival celebrates Buddha's first preaching of the four Noble
Truths to his first five disciples in a deer park at Sarnath.
The first 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. The day
falls on the fourth day (Teshi) of the sixth Tibetan month (Drukpa).
This festival is held on the 4th day of the month of the
Buddhist calendar around August. At Gangtok, Drupka Teshi is
marked by prayers at the Deer Park and at a secluded place
called Muguthang in extreme North Sikkim the festival is
celebrated by holding a Yak race.
festival is quite unique to Sikkim. It was popularised by the
third Chogyal of Sikkim, Chakdor Namgyal. In this festival the
snowy range of Kachendzonga is worshipped for its unifying
powers. This festival marks the signing of the treaty of
brotherhood between the Lepchas and Bhutias by Khye Bumsa and
Tetong Tek when the local deities were invoked to witness the
occasion. In fact Phang means witness. 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.
This festival is held on the 15th day of the 7th month around
the end of August.
Losoong marks the end of the harvest season and also the end of
the tenth month of the Tibetan Year. Chaam dancing's at the
monasteries at Palace (Tsulakhang), Phooding and Rumtek, archery
competitions and festivities mark the event. Men become gods
during the dances and don attires with mystical symbols. The
dances symbolise the exorcizing of the evil spirits of the year
and the welcoming of the good spirit of the new year.
is the Tibetan New Year and is marked with lot of gaiety and
festivity. It falls normally in the month of February.
festival is held at the monastery at Tashiding in the month of
January or February. During the festival, the pot containing the
Holy water is opened by the lamas of the monastery. The level of
water in the pot foretells the future for the forthcoming year.
If the water is to the brim, it foretells a year in which peace
and prosperity will prevail. If the water is over the brim and
is spilling signifies a year with natural disaster and flood ,
it prophesies bloodshed and disturbances. If the water lever is
low or almost dry it signifies famine. Bum in fact means "pot or
vase" and chu means "water". A part of the holy water is
distributed amongst the gathering of devotes and the pot is
replenished with river water and sealed at the end of the
festival to be opened only in the next Bumchu.