The attractions of Arunachal Pradesh are not limited to its awesome natural bounty, diverse wildlife and tribal heritage. The various festivals organized by the native tribes of Arunachal are also enticing for the visitors. Despite spread of Christianity and exposure to western culture, the importance of such rituals and festivals has not diminished. The Sangken festival, celebrated mostly by the Khamti community, is among such festivals held in the north eastern state.
Basics of the Sangken Festival
The Khamti tribe, residing mostly in Arunachal’s Lohit District celebrates this annual festival with much pomp and enthusiasm. This 3 day long festival is held in the month of April every year. It is a Buddhist festival and marks the start of New Year as per Theravada Buddhism. Apart from the Tai Khampti, Singpho and Tikhak Tangsa tribes also celebrate this socio-religious festival every year in Arunachal. Along with Arunachal, this festival is celebrated in neighboring countries like Cambodia and Myanmar.
The Rituals and Nuances
In this festival, the tribes bathe images of Lord Buddha with holy water. The Khamti people throw water on each other as part of the celebration. It is also famous as the ‘Festival of Water’. This act represents cleansing of souls in a way. The devotees seek blessing and love from Lord Buddha to ward off evil spirits.
The Lord Buddha idols are brought to Kyongfra which is a temporary shrine from Vihara on this holy day. The shrine is adorned with paper and flowers elaborately. Drums and musical instruments are used at this time. Prayers are then offered and holy water is sprinkled on the idols as part of the ritual. The tribes put on traditional colorful attire on these days. They also light candles at shrines and burn the incense sticks. They distribute homemade and regional delicacies such as Khao-mo-sen, tongtep to friends and families in these days. Exchanging gifts is also common during this festival.
While the act of throwing water is a vital part of the festival, it is mostly the young men who indulge in this act. The married and elderly people usually stay away from this. It is somewhat similar to the holi festival celebrated in rest of India but the difference is no color is used here. At end of the festival, the Buddha idols are taken back to the main shrines or Viharas.