By Chow Bilaseng Namchoom
The splashy three-day traditional annual Water Festival of the Theravada Buddhist popularly known as Sangken ended joyfully on Sundaymarking the Theravada Buddhist New Year. Celebrated in the month of April every year, Sangken was observed with lots of enthusiasm and religious fervor and in a very special way by the Tai Khampti, Tikhak Tangsa & Singpho people residing in various parts of the State particularly in Namsai and Changlang districts. It involves three days of celebrations that include sincere, yet light-hearted religious rituals that invariably end in merrymaking, where everyone ends up getting splashed, sprayed or doused with water. Water throwing or dousing one another is the distinguishing feature of this festival.
The three-day festival saw people splash and douse each other in water, which symbolized spiritual cleansing in order to begin the New Year free from impurities. The water also symbolizes fortune and purity that is said to clear all diseases, sins and bad luck. During Sangken, water is used for washing homes, Buddha statues, the ropes of holy manuscript, Bodhi tree, the hands of monks and feet of elderly people and soaking friends and passers-by.
During Sangken people dress up and lights candles and burn incense sticks at shrines where every lay devotees pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha’s teachings and to invoke the blessings of the Buddha for peace, harmony, good luck, good health and protection from the evil influences of Chow Khunkiew. Distribution of homemade delicacies likes tongtep (sweet wrapped in leaf), Khao-mo-sen (fried rice cake), Khao-tek to families and friends adds more colour and vigor to the festival.
Fra Loung-a ceremony of bringing out images and idol of Lord Buddha to makeshift temple, Soun Fra-a water ceremony of pouring and bathing Buddha statues with scented water through lungkong or water fountain, offerings to monks, seeking blessings from the elders, ethnic snacks, Fra Khoun- a ceremony of taking back the images and idols of Lord Buddha to main temple from makeshift temple, cleaning and washing the temple premises, presentation of traditional dances and merit making are the major attraction to enjoy the festivity of Sangken Festival.
At Empong and Phaneng, Many revellers from far and wide thronged the Empong Buddha Vihara and Phaneng Buddha Vihara for the last three-day festival to celebrate their fortunes for the coming year and to see Sangken’s festive best. Empong and Phaneng Monastery are famous and popular as Ti-Met (Holy place) as it is believed that the statue installed in there has special place. Devotees in huge numbers participate in Son Fra (to bathe the Buddha) and monk with scented floral water as a mark of homage. The more spiritual aspect of the Theravada Buddhist New Year can be seen here.
At Itanagar, The last three days of the festival was a sight to be seen in the Theravada Buddhist Temple where revellers from other communities also joined in the celebration to douse each other with scented water and to pay their homage to Buddha. The Theravada Buddhist Society Itanagar ensured all arrangement for smooth conduct of the water festival here in capital. The Theravada Buddhist Society decided to hold and celebrate the Poi-Sangken a ceremony to end the Sangken festival on the early morning hours of Monday.
The water festival was also celebrated with traditional and religious fervour in Namsai, Chongkham and Phaneng in Namsai dist, Tezu in Lohit dist, Rima Puttok in Changlang dist and Kalioni is Assam.