I was transfixed to see the peaks and slopes of the mountain range across the horizon changing colours from vermillion to molten-gold to sparkling white when touched by the first rays of the sun. It was happening so fast that although I held my camera, all I could do was gape at the scene unfolding before me, all within few minutes.
I came out of the trance when a villager standing nearby uttered the words “ Der mahina baad aaj aasman khul gaya” – the sky has opened up in its full glory after the clouds had substantially obscured the view of the third highest mountain Kanchendzonga or Kanchenjunga for the last one and a half month.
The huge massif of Kanchenjunga comprising of five peaks form the shape of a superhuman in a state of slumber and people on the mountains who mostly follow Buddhism or the religion propagated by Lord Gautam Buddha have thus named the massif the “Sleeping Buddha”.
Was it not then providential that the Lord would choose to rise and shine, putting away the cloud-blanket on the auspicious annual day of His special worship by those inhabiting the little hamlets in the remote nooks and corners of the Himalayas?
The head monk had already started to chant “Om Mani Padme Hum” followed by other holy Buddhist chants and the villagers of the little hamlet dorning their traditional clothes started coming to the village monastery or gumpha as they call in local language. Children looking chubby and cheerful accompanied their parents and grand parents who placed fruits and incense sticks in front of the idol of Lord Buddha and joined in the chanting. Young monks and the village lads had started to decorate the interior of the gumpha with various coloured streamers and ribbons. The kitchen chimney of the monastery started to let out smoke as all who came were served piping hot tea and biscuits. Children were served milk and fruits – the start of a bright and auspicious day on the mountains which would eventually melt into a full-moon night and this night is known as the night of ‘Buddha Poornima’.
As the day progressed the smaller idol in the monastery was raised on a palanquin carried by bearers and the rest of the villagers qued up to carry the sacred manuscripts and the prayer flag poles. A small procession soon came out with few monks blowing on the bugles leading the way. The sound of the bugles reverberated in the slopes and meadows. The procession went about the narrow rocky lanes of the hamlet passing in front of all the houses as if the Lord bestowed His blessings on each and every household. The procession returned to the Monastery and monastery kitchen offered lunch to all. The door of the monastery was partially shut so as not to disturb the Lord while in his afternoon nap.
Evening saw the village-ladies and young girls gathering once again into the monastery and join in the chants. Monastery kitchen once again served steaming tea in steel tumblers to those present.
Chanting stopped for a while as the priest or head-monk asked everyone to raise their glasses of tea to toast an offering to the Lord for few seconds. This done in unison, everyone sipped into their tumblers and joined in spirited discussion as the boys of the village came and lit many small brass lamps, each filled with wax to the brim and a wick fixed into the wax. The lamps were then handed over to the young girls and ladies who went outside and circled the monastery in a systematic que as dusk slowly settled in. The full-moon- light flooded the village and the surroundings to transform it into a fairy-land.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY : KASTURI CHAKRABORTY