The popular three-day annual Water Festival of the Theravada Buddhist of Arunachal Pradesh locally known as Sangken which begun on April 13 ended on Saturday marking 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. Water throwing or dousing one another water is the distinguishing feature of this festival and is done for all first three-day of the festival. Merit making, Son-Fra a water ceremony of pouring and bathing Buddha statues with scented water through lungkong or water fountain, offerings to monks are some other attraction to enjoy the festivity of Sangken 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 the 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 light 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.
This year, as per the Theravada Buddhist Astrological prediction (Sangken Cha), Sangken which commenced on April 13, Wednesday by bringing out the statues of Lord Buddha for installing at temporary shrine at exactly 10:43:52 PM ended on April 16, Saturday by taking back the statues of Lord Buddha from temporary shrine to its original place at 02:48:34 AM today. For this complete three days the statues of Lord Buddha was placed facing towards the south direction as it was believed that with the beginning of Sangken on April 13 at 10:43:52 PM the God of misfortune known as Chow Khunkiew entered earth from East adorned in red riding on buffalo holding bunch of flower in his right hand and water pot in his left hand going towards the South direction. Thus, the Lord Buddha statues were placed facing towards south to ward off the evil influences of Chow Khunkiew. This year as per Sangken Cha, the good day of the week will be Thursday and Saturday will be the bad day for this whole year.
Sangken was also celebrated with traditional gaiety in different places of the State.
At Tengapani (Noy Chenam), the celebration of Sangken was led by Ven. Vimalatissa, Abbot of Kongmukham (Golden Pagoda) Monastery where the delegates of World Tipitika Foundation Thailand, members of Tai Khampti Literary & Heritage Society and Namsai youths alongwith the villagers of nearby areas flock in huge number gleefully to join with the novice and monks of Kongmukham Monastery for the Fra-loung ceremony. Fra loung ceremony is the process of installation of statues of Lord Buddha in temporary shrine brought out from its original shrine on the day of beginning of Sangken and kept for three-day completely until Sangken ends. The WTF delegates later distributed books and CDs on Tipitika and joined-in with others for Son-Fra (process of pouring and bathing the statues of Buddha with water).
At Empong, Many revellers from far and wide thronged the Empong Buddhist Vihara for the last three-day festival to celebrate their fortunes for the coming year and to see Sangken’s festive best. Empong Monastery is famous and popular as Ti-Met(Holy place) as it is believed that the statue installed in there has special place65Devotees 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 6all arrangement for smooth conduct of the water festival here in capital.
The water festival Sangken was also celebrated with traditional and religious fervour in Namsai, Tezu, Rima Puttok in Changlang, Chongkham and Phaneng in Namsai dist.