Gangtok, Dec 6
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and Tika Maya Chamling have extended warm greetings and best wishes to the people of Sikkim, particularly to the Bhutia and Lepcha communities on the festive occasions of Losoong and Namsoong.
The Chief Minister in his message has said, “As the year comes to an end, I would like to extend my best wishes to my fellow Sikkimese people on the auspicious occasion of Losoong and Namsoong. These festivals hold great religious and cultural significance for the people of Sikkim and serve as an occasion to unwind and celebrate with family and friends. I hope and pray that the festivals strengthen the unique bond that we share as Sikkimese and may it mark a fresh beginning for better things to come for the State and the people.”
In Bhutia dialect, ‘Lo’ means year and ‘Soong’ to celebrate. So for the Bhutias, this is the moment to bid farewell to the old and welcome the New Year. Losoong begins from the onset of Dawa Chukchi (the 11th month) and the celebrations extend up to a week. Losoong is also known as Sonam Losoong, which loosely translated would mean an ‘agriculturer’s New Year.’ Farmers kept busy in the fields through the year, take time out after the harvest to pay obeisance to the Gods with the offerings of the first parts of the crops and fruits, asking forgiveness, protection and prosperity for the good harvests of the year gone by and the year to come. It is also the time for them to observe ‘Phola’ in honour of the family’s male god.
As per tradition, early on the first day (che chi), with the first call of rooster, one member from the house rushes to the stream to fetch a jug of water. The first person in the locality to do so is assumed to get the ‘Golden Water’, while others have to make do with the symbolic silver water. This water is then offered at the altar. Each house then burns pines along with the first part of the eatables – meat, millet brew and corn/rice snacks – prepared for the festival, and as the smoke billows, one shouts, ‘Tenglhawollu / Phar tsen sang sollo / Thipthamche sang sollo.’ This is a ritual to propitiate the local deities as well as the ancestral gods. Then with the second call of the rooster, family members gather to take ‘chang-khu’(fermented rice beer) as a nectar of immortality. New clothes and ornaments are worn. After which, the father of the house starts narrating stories on Losoong, kings, kingdoms, on Guru Padmasambhava, etc. Unfortunately, this tradition is followed by very few families nowadays.
During Losoong celebrations, we see men and women dressed in their festive finery wander around towns and villages wishing, ‘TashiDelegPhuntsomTsog/EmaPhagdoKukhamZang/TenloDewaThoparSho / (May all the properties be accumulated here / On my mind be in cheerful, pure and healthy state / may happiness here forever), and sprinkling ‘phima’ (flour and butter). Application of ‘phima’ on one’s head symbolizes long life till one’s hair turns grey. On day one, no one should hold parties or go out of the house. Prayer flags are also planted on the first day to ward off omens, diseases and for long life. From the second day, people begin to visit relatives, organize parties and host a community gathering where people eat, drink and play games like archery.
On the eve of Losoong i.e. ‘NyerGu’ or the twenty-ninth day of the tenth lunar month, all members of the family gather for the last supper of the year consisting of a special porridge. Charcoal, chilly, cotton, paper, thorn, leaf and figures of sun and moon are added into the porridge and served. A person who gets cotton in his share of porridge signifies a soft hearted person and so on. All this is in jest, though. On the thirtieth day i.e.’ Namgang’ (no moon), people busy themselves with the annual cleansing, which includes bathing, washing clothes and room cleaning. To welcome the ‘new year’ next morning, parents then decorate the home shrine with seven bowls of water, butter lamps, fruits, a cup of milk, tea, a bottle of wine, cooked rice mixed with sweets, new clothes, ornaments, coins, incense, home cookies(‘jhero’,’khabsay’). And all doors, pillars and kitchens get adorned with butter and flour. Offerings are made to the Gods and the effigies of demons are burnt.
After five auspicious Losoong days is ‘NyenpaGuzom’ (meeting of nine black omens). There is a belief that each week and a month have a black day which total up to make ‘NyenpaGuzom.’ These days are black, painful and sad because the deities are believed to undergo cleansing. People are thus advised not to start anything good on this day.
Similar to Losoong, the members of the Lepcha community celebrate the occasion in the form of Namsoong. The Lepchas offer prayers in thanksgiving to nature and their ancestors, fortifying their faith and connection to their sacred paradise, ‘MayalLyang’. For the Lepchas, nature is of paramount importance and hence the festival is usually celebrated outdoors, indicating their oneness with the trees, birds, mountains and rivers.
Namsoong begins with ‘TyangrigongSonap’ or black night, which symbolizes the killing of LasoMung Puno, the demon king, with whom Lepchas fought for 12 years. It is also called ‘NamtekNamjyukSayak,’ meaning the last day of the year and ‘PikSut’ is performed by the Mun, Boongthing or by the male head of the family. This is a family ritual performed to drive out all the evils of the year, for instance LasoMung Puno’s effigy is burnt in the villages followed by rituals at night to commemorate the day of victory. For them, the first day is ‘Nam Al’, which signifies the Lepchas getting a new life. The day begins by preparing food from the new harvest and is offered to ‘AbyDeby Rum’ (the creator god). The main festivity begins from the second day when the younger ones go from door to door conveying New Year messages through a song called ‘lasso’.
The Chief Minister further said, “These festivals highlight the rich culture and tradition of the two communities; and celebration of such festivals will help in preservation of our age-old customs and traditions for posterity. I hope that the younger generation will gain knowledge about the festivals, and work towards preserving and promoting them future as future citizens .”
“Let us all unite in celebrating the unique culture and religious traditions of Sikkim and continue to live in harmony ,” concluded the Chief Ministe