Magical Monsoon

RailBandhu.in

, Travel

Monsoon is a season of rejuvenation. In Sikkim, various Buddhist festivals are celebrated during this period to brighten the melancholic monsoon ambience and stir the soul

Monsoon engulfs Sikkim from mid June to the end of September. It rains on and on for days together. The orchids and the flowers that bloom in spring, wither away. The blue skies take on a grey and gloomy hue in sharp contrast to the lush green hills. Clouds descend to the earth and also swirl up from the valley as mist, submerging the surroundings, lending a surreal ambience. The scent of the monsoon rain is intoxicating. Even the normally stark high altitude landscape is coaxed by the rains to take on a green attire. During the monsoon, all you can hear is a continuous lullaby of pitter-patter of rain on the rooftops. For those who want to get away from it all and spend a quiet sleepy holiday, a monsoon sojourn in Sikkim is definitely an experience worth trying.

FESTIVE GALORE

In Sikkim, there are four festivals that fall during the monsoon – Saga Dawa, Rumtek Tse Chu (Lama Dances), Drukpa Teshi and Pang Lhabsol. They bring a sort of magic that brightens up the melancholy of gloomy monsoon days. Saga Dawa 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, the three important events celebrated during the festival of Saga Dawa. This festival is held on the full moon of the fourth month of the Buddhist calendar around mid June.

At Gangtok, Saga Dawa commences with early morning prayers at the Tsuklakhang Monastery. A procession then forms up, with monks carrying the statue of Lord Buddha on a palanquin preceded by drummers and trumpeters, followed by volunteers, mostly school children carrying the holy books of the teachings of Buddha on their shoulders.

Rumtek Chaam (Lama Dance) is a religious dance celebrated at the Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center. It is performed on the 10th day of the fifth month in the Tibetan calendar, which falls in June. The chaam presents the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava, the lotus-born, who was responsible for the growth of Buddhism in Tibet. A procession carrying the statue of the Guru is carried out around the town of Gangtok. In the evening, dramas and concerts depicting the life of the Guru take place.

Drukpa Teshi celebrates Buddha’s first preaching of the four Noble Truths to his first five disciples at a deer park in Sarnath. The first is the noble truth of suffering, second is the truth of the origin of suffering, third is the cessation of the suffering and fourth 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) around August.

Pang Lhabsol festival is quite unique to Sikkim. It was popularised by the third King of Sikkim, Chakdor Namgyal in 18th century. During this festival, the snowy range of Kachendzonga is worshipped for its unifying powers. On this day, the guardian deity is portrayed by masked Lama dancers as a fiery red-faced deity with a crown of five skulls, riding a snow lion. This festival is held on the 15th day of the 7th month around August and September.

FLOWERY TRAIL

A visit to the high altitudes of Sikkim like the Tsomgo Lake, Nathula area, or the Cholamu plateau in North Sikkim is advisable during the monsoon. From July to September, the high altitude landscape metamorphoses to a riot of colours. The hillside is carpeted with alpine vegetation – acononites, the rare blue poppies, rhododendrons and a lot of other colourful flowers.

Text: Rajesh Verma

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