Saka Dawa Celebrations: Day 9 (Elevation 4750M / 15583FT)
July 18, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Festivities for Saga Dawa, the commemoration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away, began early on the morning of May 27th.  We climbed up to the main prayer flag offering area just as things were coming to a climax.  Each year, on the full moon of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, pilgrims from all over Tibet gather here to take down the old darboche, an 80 foot pole strung with prayer flags.  They then replace the old flags with new, and raise it again for the coming year. 

Here is a short video of the final moments of the darboche being hoisted up to its new position with pilgrims throwing lungta (small pieces of paper printed with prayers), and shouting “so-so-so-so!” and “lha gya lo!” or, in translation, “victory to the gods!”.  I’m having a bit of a hard time embedding, just click on the little image below and it should take you to Vimeo:

Raising the Darboche

As they raise the pole, people pay attention to its position: if it stands perfectly straight, it signals the coming of a prosperous year.  Though if it leans, it is an omen for suffering and may signal the coming of obstacles, disease and famine.  I’m sad to say that it’s leaning a bit this year.

After the darboche was raised, groups of pilgrims made offerings in unison.  This merry line is from central Tibet; I believe they travelled over from Shigatse.  They are making offerings of tsampa, the roasted barley flour that is a staple of their diet (same thing, give the image a tap):

Offerings at Darboche

Now that the prayer flags from the previous year had been taken down, it was time to join the masses in offering fresh ones.  Thanks to Simon’s bravery, we left this site with a long strand of flags imprinted with prayers to Drolma.

A little background on prayer flags, as we’ll be seeing a lot of them.  Prayer flags are believed to benefit all beings by spreading blessings on the wind.  Their colors represent the five elements: blue symbolizes sky/space; white symbolizes air/wind; red symbolizes fire; green symbolizes water;  and yellow symbolizes earth.  Traditional Tibetan medicine holds that health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.

Since the merit of good deeds done on this day is believed to be multiplied, pilgrims were busy not only hanging prayer flags but also making offerings, reciting prayers, burning incense, circumambulating the darboche and setting off for the larger kora around Kailash.  As our spin around the mountain was still a few days ahead, we spent the rest of the day enjoying our place below Kailash and wandering off to do some practice on our own.

We later reconvened for a birthday celebration for Patrick whose big day just happened to coincide with the holiest day of the year!  (The 27th is also my Dad’s b-day so lots of love was being sent out to him as well).  And yet again, we marvelled at the wonder of our trail cook’s ability to bake a cake on a camping stove:




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