Saga Dawa Holy Festival Offers Unique Opportunities for Visitors in Tibet
Saga Dawa honors the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. It falls on the full moon of the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, and it is one of the most important festivals for Buddhists all over the world. This year the festival will take place on June 4th, coinciding with the best time of the year for Tibet trekking. Visitors to Tibet will have ample opportunity to take in the sights of this unique celebration.
Buddhists believe that the karmic merit of prayer and good deeds is multiplied during Saga Dawa. Pilgrims from all over South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China will journey to holy sites in Tibet this June, they will perform rites such as prostration, circumambulation of holy sites and stupas, abstaining from eating meat, giving alms to the poor, and praying and spinning prayer wheels.
The center of Saga Dawa religious activity in Lhasa is the Jokhang Temple, located in the heart of Lhasa. It houses the Jowo Rinpoche, a statue that is the most ancient and revered relic in Tibet. A series of streets and a square around the Jokhang Temple form the Barkhor circuit, a popular tourist destination and circumambulation route for pilgrims. Many visitors will also venture to Drepung Monastery, located a few kilometers outside the city at the foot of Mt. Gephel. Pilgrims climb the mountain to burn juniper incense. The night of the festival city residents will light thousands of butter lamps under the full moon. These lamps symbolize the wisdom of Buddhist teachings illuminating darkness and ignorance.
Thousands of pilgrims will make the journey to remote and beautiful Mt. Kailash in southwest Tibet. The most dedicated pilgrims will circumambulate the mountain in one day on a 52 kilometer trail over uneven terrain, some even performing full body prostrations for the entire route. On the day of the festival pilgrims will gather at the towering Tarboche flagpole, located just south of Kailash, where they will take down the old prayer flags, affix new ones, and re-erect the pole. It is an auspicious sign for the prosperity of Tibet if the pole stands perfectly straight.
For visitors to Tibet during Saga Dawa, there is ample opportunity to visit ancient holy sites and participate in activities that reflect the unique religion and culture of the Tibetan people.


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