Celebrated with a great deal of pomp and grandeur, the Pang Lhabsol Festival in Sikkim is one of its kind. It is popularised by Chakdor Namgyal, the third Chogyal of Sikkim and staged in Gangtok’s former palace compound in front of the Tsuklakhang monastery. Considered to be one of the most popular carnivals in Sikkim, the festival bestows colour and elegance to the already vibrant state.
The festival is celebrated with a view to paying tribute to Mt. Khangchendzonga which is regarded as Sikkim’s guardian idol as well as Yabdu which is said to be the mountain’s top commander. Sikkim constitutes mainly of three communities namely Lepcha, Bhutia and Nepali. And all these communities converge to celebrate this festival grandly. Pang Lhabsol in this sense has become a platform for the people in the quaint town of Sikkim to showcase their communal and cultural harmony.
History of the Pang Lhabsol Festival
Mount Kanchenjunga is the third largest mountain and is set in Sikkim. It is replete with numerous Buddhist Monasteries.
There are legends associated with this festival and it includes both the Bhutia and Lepcha in Sikkim. In one of the legends, it is believed that in the latter half of the 8th century he sojourned in Sikkim. Guru Padma Sambhava was invited to Tibet during that time to construct the Shamyeh Gumpa monastery. The Tibetan royal family was facing complications in the form of malicious spirits. The story says that Guru Padma Sambhava used his tantric mantras to fend off the spirits. His tantric abilities got him a hold on many spirits who assume the role of Gods and Goddesses. They are now considered to be guardian deities in Sikkim. They were promised to be worshipped annually and that laid the tradition of Pang Lhabsol.
It is believed that the mountain God played a vigorous role in introducing Buddhism into this earlier time kingdom. To this day the mountain God is prayed upon and invoked at Pang Lhabsol to continue protecting Sikkim.
Highlights and Important Rituals of the Pang Lhabsol Festival
The vivid festival of Pang Lhabsol is replete with some prayers, ornate rituals and thrilling dance performances by lamas and monks. Amongst the most thriving highlights is the breath-taking warrior dance called ‘Pang-Toed Chaam’ which is known to keep the visitors hooked on to their spots. This cultural dance aims at invoking the guardian deity, Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Furthermore, the Lamas are seen wearing fiery red-faced masks and ride on a snow-lion which resembles the guardian angel and simply provides for a remarkable show. Moreover, the acrobatic moves on the eclectic sounds of echoing cymbals and drums are sure to leave you mesmerised.
Also, we suggest that you do not miss the entry of Mahakala who is the protector of Dharma. It is keenly awaited amidst the dance piece which brings about a dramatic twist to the entire performance.
5 Quick Facts About the Pang Lhabsol Festival:
- The festival is celebrated on the 7th month’s 15th day of the Tibetan calendar. It corresponds to late August / early September.
- Among all the Buddhist festivals that are celebrated in Sikkim, this festival sees the biggest commemorations that are widely evident in the state.
- In the procession, you will spot a dancer wearing a red mask mounted with five human skulls. On its top are mounted flags to represent the Mountain Kanchenjunga itself.
- The festival also marks the remembrance of blood brotherhood avowed between the Lepchas and the Bhutias.
- The place where this oath was taken is presently known as ‘Kabi Longtsok’. In Lepcha, ‘Kabi’ means our blood, ‘long’ stands for stone and ‘Tsok’ means erect. Altogether the words mean ‘the erect stone with our blood which is an oath sworn’.
Does this stir the excitement in you? To get the best of the festival, plan your trip intricately and catch on all the best aspects of the town. Moreover, leave the job to be done by an expert travel agent and forget about all your scheduling hassles.
Offbeat Tracks is one such dedicated team of travel experts who chalk out a detailed itinerary and also customise it as per your request. With a festive vacation around the corner, we suggest you wrap your belongings and book a trip to Sikkim now!