Saga Dawa (Vesak) – Festivals in Tibet
Saga Dawa is the fourth lunar month and one of the four holy festivals in Tibet and all the Buddhist communities around the world. The actual festival is on the 15th day of the month, that’s when Gautama Buddha took Birth, Enlightened (attained Nirvana at the age of 35) and Died (or attained Parinirvana at the age of 81), Buddhists honor the life of Gautama Buddha by celebrating the festival. This year’s 4th lunar month starts on 7th May and the Saga Dhuchen (Vesak) falls on 21st May.
Though the festival is celebrated in Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar and in other places all over the world in their own fashions according to their traditions and history, most of them only celebrate the main event, Vesak, 15th day of the 4th lunar month. But the festival lasts throughout the month in Tibet. Tibetans tend to go on pilgrimages, mostly to Lhasa and Ngari. Lhasa will be much crowded during that month, if you happen to be traveling in Tibet, that’s probably one of the best time in a year. There will be a large number of pilgrims circumambulating Barkhor circuit, Potala Palace and Lingkor, many pilgrims climb Gephel Ri, the peak behind Drepung monastery, to burn juniper incense. In the west of Tibet, there is a holy ceremony of taking down the old Darpoche prayer flagpole and erecting a new one.
It is believed that the merits of the good deeds done during Saga Dawa are many times more, as much as one hundred million times more, so Buddhists take up the good actions to accumulate merit during Saga Dawa, especially on the 15th day, like refraining from consuming anything with non-vegetarian material, offering donations to monasteries/nunneries and giving alms to beggars, making prostration pilgrimages and circumambulations, lighting butter lamps and burning juniper incense, buying and sparing animals from butcher’s knife or their cages etc. If you are interested in booking a tour to visit during the festival, Explore Tibet provides. Here is the Tibet travel advice and read before travel to Tibet.