‘India’ is a country of great multiplicity. People inspite of being from different religion, caste and creed lives together untidily. Thus, the great proverb goes very perfectly for country like India – ‘Unity in Diversity’. It described as a land of diverse religions and innumerable languages. At the same time it also described as a land of festivals as well. Indians love celebrating. Every little occasion from the harvesting of crops, welcoming the spring, expressing devotion to the deities of different religions, lends itself to joyous celebrations splashed with colours, music, folk dances and songs. Even the birthdays of divine beings are also celebrated by relating them with particular festivals. Every celebration in India centres on rituals of prayer, seeking blessing, exchanging goodwill, decorations, wearing new clothes, music, dance, food and feasting. Thus, Indian calendar is one long procession of festivals.
One such delightful festival that I experienced in North- east India is Water Festival. This festival is generally celebrated by the followers of Buddhism in India. Different communities named this festival by different names. Some named it as Songkran, or some as Sangken. But here in North- east India, it is popularly known as ‘Sangken’. It is celebrated to welcome the New Year, which falls generally from 13th to 15th adapted from the Sankranti Hindu festival. This festival is mostly celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh and in some part of Assam by the people belonging to the Buddhist community. Generally, Kahmti, Singpho, Khamyang, Tikhaks (Tangsa) and Tai phake community of Arunachal Pradesh and in Assam, celebrates this festival with great joy. But now a day’s with the growing popularity of the festival it has been observed in nationwide.
Basically, Water Festival is the New Year’s celebrations that took place in Southeast Asian countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand as well as in Yunnan and China. It is called the ‘Water Festival’ by Westerners because people splash / pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the New Year.
According to the Tai calendar, Sangken, is celebrated on the last day of Chaitra, usually welcoming the New Year. It is a three day celebration, where the images of Lord Buddha are given a ceremonial bath. By rinsing the Buddha images or statues of the monastery they believe to have good luck and prosperity for the New Year. A huge procession is carried out throughout the area with the images or the statue of Lord Buddha. The procession is accompanied with the beats of drum. On the vary day, they splash water on each other, of April and is believed to have been believing in washing away their sins. The unmarried youth are usually involves in this practice of showering of water. Due to this culture of showering water to each other, this festival is popularly known as water festival. On the last day of Sanken, the Buddha images are taken back to the Vihar premises, keeping it in their original places. Restoration of idols inside the Vihara marks the end of the old year and beginning of the New Year. They als0 offer prayers by lighting candles in the monastery premises and giving food to the monks.
Since this festival marks as the beginning of the New Year people tend to wear new clothes and ornaments along with making of delicious ethnic food. All the people of the community irrespective of their age come out from their houses in new and colorful costumes to observe Sangken, the festival of water for peace and harmony.