Wine & dine into new year - Masked dance, prayers set pace for hill state festivities

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  • Published 24.12.03

Gangtok, Dec. 24: The Bhutia and Lepcha communities in the state kicked off traditional new year celebrations today.

Called Losoong by the Bhutias and Nomsoong by the Lepchas, the festival was celebrated with fervour by members of both communities.

The Kagyed (masked) dance, held in some monasteries on Monday, had set the tone for the celebrations which started with Tse Chik (day one) being observed today.

The Kagyed dance, held a few days prior to Losoong, is performed in various monasteries on the 28th and 29th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. The dance depicts the destruction of evil and is said to herald peace and prosperity to every Sikkimese home prior to the new year.

The dance is performed by monks to a backdrop of prayers and chanting of mantras. The solemn nature of the dance is interspersed with comic relief by jesters called Achars. The dance enacts various themes from Buddhist mythology and ends with the burning of effigies built from flour, wood and paper.

The Sikkim Tribal Youth Association today brought out a rally in Gangtok to mark the beginning of the festivities. Clad in traditional attire of khos and brocades, they showered phi (wheat flour) and chu (water) on the passers-by, in what is considered an auspicious act.

Most Sikkimese people spent the first day of festivities at home with their family. From tomorrow, they will visit relatives and continue with the celebrations.

Losoong is celebrated to mark the end of harvest season and usher in a time of feasting. The morning begins with prayers being offered in homes which are cleaned and painted much before the festivities begin.

Sikkimese delicacies, snacks and chaang, a local brew, are offered to guests.

The festival will continue for seven more days and will end with Nyenpa Guzom on December 29, which is said to be an inauspicious day since demons make merry. Family members are often asked to stay in their homes and not travel on this particular day.

The state government has been on a 12-day vacation for Losoong, Namsoong, Christmas and Tamu Lochar since Sunday. Offices will open only on January 1, 2004.

A Losoong festival will be organised at the Guards’ ground at Tathangchen from tomorrow. Cultural programmes and traditional games will be the highlight of the festival.

Namprikdang in Dzongu, north Sikkim, is playing host to a Namsoong festival. Apart from cultural programmes, the fest will feature archery and football tournaments from Friday to Sunday.