The mountain state of Sikkim celebrates Losoong or the New Year in their unique style. The New Year in Sikkim falls on December which marks the beginning of the harvest season in the area.
Since a large portion of the Sikkim population is Buddhist the influence of Buddhist rituals and traditions can be seen in their New Year celebration. The Sikkimese New Year coincides with the Tibetan New Year or Losar, which is celebrated during the 18th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar. On Losoong people celebrate the good harvest of the previous year and pray for another bountiful year to their deities. Losoong is also called Sonam Losoong or the Farmers' New Year since it is the largest festival of the farming community of the state.
Celebration of Losoong
Losoong was initially the New Year celebration of the Bhutia community of the area but later it was also adopted by the Lepchas, who are the largest tribe in the area, making it the largest non-religious celebration of the state.
It is the day for the Sikkimese to offer prayer to their gods. The traditional Chaam dance and archery competitions remain the main attractions of the event.
Chaam dances are performed in the Buddhist monasteries by accomplished dancers among monks. The dancers often dress like Tibetan deities and through their dances the monks narrate stories of good triumphing over the evil.
The dancers dress in colorful traditional Chaam dance costumes. The dance festivals of Tsuklakhang Palace, Phodong and Rumtek Monastery attract large number of national and international visitors. The dances are performed to exorcise the evil spirits and since the monks of the goomphas are the main performers the dance form is also known as ‘lama dance’. Colorful flags and festoons adorn the path leading to the monastery as they said to ward off the evil and usher good luck.
Sikkimese New Year is also the time for the people to hone their archery skills. Famous archery competitions are organized in many places and a large number of participants take part in them.
Lossong is the time to prepare and enjoy traditional Sikkimese dishes. During this time a special dish named ‘guthuk’ is prepared which comprise nine ingredients and includes cheese and different types of grains. A special type of Sikkimese fortune cookies is made and these hide items like chili, sugar, salt, wool, and coal. Sikkimese believe that the item you’ll find inside your fortune cookie will disclose your true nature, such as sugar depicts the goodness in your heart.
‘Chhaang’ is a specially prepared local alcohol which is consumed by the people during Loosong. It is even offered to the god before the initiation of the festivity. Few minutes before the clock declares the New Year the Lepcha priest, Bongthing offers the “Chi Fut" or the alcohol oblation to their deity. At the midnight an effigy of the demon king Laso Mung Punu is burnt to ward off the evil.
On the day of Losoong people get up early, take a bath and don new clothes. Prayers are then offered to the deities for a prosperous new year. Sonam Losoong is more a private celebration but people also visit the monasteries to worship Lord Buddha.
Losoong is a fifteen days long festival during which revelers celebrate with abundance. An important day during Losoong is Nyempo Guzom, which is considered inauspicious to start new ventures.