Sangken Water Festival 2023 of Arunachal Pradesh

Sangken the ‘Festival of Water’ is celebrated by Theravada sect of Buddhism to welcome the New Year. The tradition of throwing water is a purification ritual of the socio religious Water Festival celebrated in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam states of India and with the name of ‘Songkran’ in South-East Asia countries. It is similar to Holi festival of Colors in other parts of India, but here it is played with Water only (no use of Color).

What is Sangken Water Festival 2023 ?

Sangken is a socio religious ‘Festival of Water’ celebrated by people of Theravada sect of Buddhism. Sangken is a 3 day water festival celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm to welcome the New Year.

girls celebrating sangken water festival of tai khamti community in assam, arunachal pradesh, india

How is Sangken Water Festival 2023 Celebrated ?

Sangken is generally a throwing of water festival which is celebrated for 3 days. This throwing of water is a purification ritual celebrated with fervor across the Arunachal Pradesh and Assam states of India.

On the first day, the idols of Buddha are carried out from the main shrines (Vihara or Temple) and installed on auspicious ‘Kyongfra’ (a temporary shrine decorated with flowers, toko leaves, colorful papers) inside the premises of the monastery, ceremony called ‘loung fra’ . While devotees perform traditional folk dance on the beat of drums, cymbals along with singing prayers. And it is kept here consecutively for 3 days, so the devotees perform rituals and the blessing of the Lord is invoked by giving a ceremonial bath to the Buddha called ‘Son Nam Phra’. This holy bath is an auspicious ritual of the Sangken Water Festival. A Special water fountain called ‘Lungkong’ is created to sprinkle clean and scented water on Buddha. 

Then the water is poured to the rope of the Dharma and Sangha which forms the three jewels of Buddhism. Water is also poured on the Bodhi tree, Sailik (the ropes of holy books), holy objects and on the hands of Bhikkhus (monks) for blessings. People also pour water on the hands and feets of elderly members for blessings.

The festival continues for 3 days. People enjoy throwing water on each other, exchanging gifts, sweets, cleaning and decorating their houses, monasteries. Devotees pray in the shrine, light candles, joss sticks and make offerings and donations to monks and the poor people.

People also made paper water Lanterns to float into the river – it’s believed that all bad omens and negative vibes of them will go away.

On the last day, devotees take “Pancha Sheel or Ashta Sheel” as per their age and vows. And after that wash the feet of the abbot of monks and other monks as well, offer gifts, flowers and take blessings. Later the abbot of monks put those flowers in 3 sections and offered them to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. After that the abbot delivers the “Mangala Sutta” (speech of Buddha’s blessings). Then he sprinkles some water on the ground and prays ‘O mother Earth’, please be the witness of the Dharma of my donation. After all the rituals, the idols of Buddha will be reinstalled into the main shrine. And this depicts the end of the previous year and the beginning of the New Year.

There is also another ritual observed on the fourth day called ‘Kapsithi’ in the evening. Devotees build a nine-layered pyramid shaped shrine called Kapsithi with clay and install it in premises of the monastery. These nine layers are to signify the nine qualities of Buddha. Devotees worship and make offerings to Kapsithi and seek blessings for the safety and happiness of the people and the society. And after that people sit together and have a feast.

people celebrating sangken water festival at golden pagoda monastery arunachal pradesh, india and dancing on drums cymbals, gongs

Main Attractions of Sangken Water Festival 2023

  • Loung fra – devotees carry out Buddha idols from shrine.
  • Kyongfra – place the Buddha idols into temporary shrine for the ceremonies.
  • Bathing Ceremony – “Son Nam Phra”.
  • Lungkong – boat shaped water fountain created with wood for holy bath.
  • Devotees – Dance on drums, cymbals, gongs and throw water on each other.
  • Launching hundreds of Paper Lanterns into the river.
  • Having a feast with family, friends and community.
  • Rituals – Pancha Sheel – Ashta Sheel vows, Mangala Sutta recitation. 
  • Kapsithi – nine-layer pyramid shrine to worship.

When is the Sangken Water Festival 2023 Date ?

This Sangken Water Festival is celebrated every year on the arrival of spring season in the month of mid April. This year Sangken Water Festival 2023 will be celebrated between 13 April – 15 April 2023. 

monks devotees carrying Buddha idols celebrating sangken water festival at monastery of arunachal pradesh assam india

Where is the Sangken Water Festival 2023 Celebrated in India ? 

Sangken Water Festival is celebrated by Theravada Buddhist followers in monasteries across Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Assam sates of India. And many other community Tai, Khamti and other community also partake in Sangken Water Festival who follows Thervada Buddhism. Sangken is also celebrated with the name of ‘Songkran‘ in South East Asia countries.

Best Places for Sangken Water Festival 2023

  • Golden Pagoda (Buddhist Temple Kongmu Kham) in Tengapani, Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh, India.
  • Pariyatti Sasana Buddha Vihara, Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Chongkham Buddha Vihara, Namsai, Arunachal PRadesh
  • Lord Buddha Monastery – Empong, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Thervada Buddhist Temple, Itangar, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Goju Buddha Vihar, Bordumsa, Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh
  • Namphakey Buddhist Monastery, Assam.
  • Gyanarakkhita Buddha Vihara, Guwahati, Assam

History or Legend of Sangken Water Festival

Sangken Water Festival is celebrated every year in April (‘Naun-Haa’) of the Khamti community calendar. And the legend of Sangken Festival is derived from the holy script of Khamti community. In which it is stated that Celestial daughters unknowingly gave the secret to kill their father Brahma in ‘Deva-lok’ to the devil ‘Chau-Khun-Keu’. And the Theravada Buddhist community protect themselves with blessings of Buddha from the devil ‘Chau-Khun-Keu’. So during the Sangken festival Lord Buddha statues are carried out from the main shrine to invoke his power and blessings and monks, devotees worship and make offerings to many rituals during these days. And later reinstall the Budhha idols into the main shrine.

Theravada Buddhism was brought by migratory groups of South-East Asia during 13th – 18th century in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. They settles around Changlang and Namsai district and some parts of Assam. Many Theravada Buddhist Monasteries are built around which showcase the architecture and culture of Thervada Buddhism.

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FAQs :

Why is the Sangken festival 2023 celebrated ?

The ritual of sprinkling water on Buddha, monks and each other is to purify the heart, soul and to attain peace, harmony and unity.

Which religion celebrates the Sangken Water Festival 2023 ?

Tai Phake, Tai Lai community from ‘Manipur’ also join, Tai Khamyang, Khamti, Tangsas, Singpho community,  Theravada Buddhist followers actively participate with great enthusiasm in this Sangken Water Festival.

What is the Pancha Sheel or Ashta Sheel (5 or 8 precepts) in Buddhism ?

Pancha Sheel or Ashta Sheel are the list of precepts which are observed by Buddhist on observance day and festival. The first 5 precepts are (i) refrain from killing living beings, (ii) stealing, (iii) sexual activity, (iv) false speaking, (v) intoxicated drinks and drugs and the remaining 3 are (vi) eating at the forbidden time (after noon), (vii) dance, music, beautification of the body, (viii) abstain from high sleeping places.

What is Mangala Sutta in Buddhism ?

Mangala Sutta (auspicious) is a sermon delivered by Gautam Buddha on the blessings. And Gautam Buddha describes these blessings as wholesome attainments and anyone can achieve from mundane to great spiritual goal. These blessings or Sutta are described with 38 blessings into 10 sections.

What are the 3 three jewels of Buddhism ?

The 3 jewels of Buddhism are (i) Buddha – The Teacher, (ii) Dharma – The Teachings, (iii) Sangha – The Community.

What is Lungkong water fountain & how it works ?

Lungkong is made up of a wooden mini boat with a wheel in its center ‘Hoelin’ to sprinkle water. As the people pour water, the wheel starts moving and sprinkle water over the Buddha idol placed in Kyongfra. And some Lungkong are made with a simple water fountain to take holy scented water and pour on to idols of Buddha. People or devotees pour the water thrice and place pots near the idol to collect the falling water from the idol. And sprinkle that holy water on themselves to cure them from ailments (as per beliefs).

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