History of the 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 Siddhartha 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, realization dawned upon Prince Siddhartha that all the worldly pleasures were transient and unreal and that the ultimate truth lay elsewhere. He renounced the world wandering for many years in search of the truth. Ultimately he reached Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, where he meditated under the Bodhi tree 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.
Celebration of the Saga Dawa
Beside the remembering Buddha and his activities, the main point of the festival is to pray and it is said by many that, the goal of the festival season is, to pray for the long life of all the holy gurus of all customs, for the endurance and extending the Buddha’s teachings in the minds of all responsive beings, and for world peace. Buddhists go to monasteries and temples to plead during the Saga Dawa Festival. One place in Lhasa where crowds of Tibetans gather to pray is the Potala Palace and hundreds of people lie down or stand to pray in front of it.
In the temples, people will light butter lamps. Butter lamps are simply clarified yak butter or vegetable oil in a bowl with a wick. The lamps produce a Smokey light. So on special holiday, people and monks at the temples light thousands of lamps. For many, the Saga Dawa Festival marks the beginning of a holy month.
Many Buddhists around the world call the day ‘Vesakha’ or ‘Vesak’ from the Sanskrit name ‘Vaisakha’. 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.