Saga means “the fourth” and Dawa refers to “month” in Tibetan. This festival is celebrated for whole month and is one of the most significant festivals celebrated in Sikkim. But the fifteenth day of the month is very special as Sakyamuni was born, attained Nirvana (enlightenment), stepped into Parinirvana (death). People believe that they will accumulate immense amount of merits during that particular day by giving generously, going vegetarian for the day, etc. Monks chanting in monasteries, cham dancing and other religious activities dominate the occasion.
The festival is called “Qiong ren Jie” in Chinese which means poor people’s day.
Since the Saga Dawa festival falls on the holiest month of the Tibetan calendar, it is believed that good deeds and prayers are multiplied thousand fold during this event. Thus, this astounding festival is also known as the Festival for Releasing Living Things, and during this festival, people do not eat meat and kill any living things.
The most significant and spiritual highlight of the Saga Dawa is the colorful and spiritual religious procession in Gangtok where monks carry the Holy Scriptures that contains the teachings of Lord Buddha. The procession is a wonderful sight and soul stirring as the monks chant the spiritual “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ” mantra and turn the prayer wheel all along during the entire procession.
People dressed in their traditional attire gather up on the streets to give offerings and touch their heads to the Holy Scriptures and receive blessings. Dhajas are erected during this festival by family members to bring peace to their lost ones. Saga Dawa is a festival of great zeal and spirituality.