Saga Dawa Festival – Birth of the Buddha

The festivities held during the 4th month are multiple and vary from one region to another. They are mainly about 4 events related to the 4th month:

The beginning of the harvest, the birth of the Buddha, his awakening and his death.


The Vesak takes place during the 3 full moon days of the 4th month. The Vesak’s origin is India, it is a word that comes from the Sanskrit “Vaishaka”, which means the month of April / May, the month of the harvest.

A little like Pentecost came to settle on the harvest festivals in many Western countries, Vesak was originally the Harvest Festival in the state of Punjab, which is the rice granary of India .

And then, Buddhism gave it a new meaning, that of birth, then illumination of wakening (Boddhi), then finally the perfect extinction (parinirvana) of the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni).

We have gradually desired the three together, perhaps to save a little bit the public holidays, especially in the countries of Theravada or Hinayana, the Small Vehicle (Southeast Asia).

In the countries of the Great Vehicle (Tibet, Kham, Amdo among others), we have often kept separate the festivals, at eight days apart.
The birth of Sakyamuni, the 8th day of the lunar month, remains a moment of celebration except for Tibetans.

Similarly, the awakening and death of Sakyamuni Buddha are celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th month.

What are the festivities?

It is said that to undertake a pilgrimage during the 4th month is very beneficial because the effects of each act of devotion are amplified. The famous pilgrimage of Mount Kailash took place at this time.

The Vesak is usually a big family party where people meet together, sometimes three generations and they are there to party.

The day commemorating the birth of Buddha Sakyamuni, many offerings to the Buddha are made and there are sometimes processions.

The 15th day commemorates the awakening and death of Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddha is honored by observing a strict vegetarian diet and avoiding slaughtering domestic animals. During this month, offerings are made, and most of the inhabitants join the circumbulations around important sacred places.

In each monastery, sutras are recited and Cham dances are presented, a very dynamic form of Buddhist dance where dancers wear elaborate masks and costumes. It is said that during this festival, the faithful multiplies by 300 the number of merits he obtains; this encourages many to donate large sums of money to monasteries and beggars.

The places of the festivities

Kangding, Sichuan

The day commemorating the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha, festivities take place at Paoma Shan in Kangding. Many nomads come to participate planting their white and blue tents around the mountain. There are horse races and wrestling events among others. A fair is held in the city for ten days.

Mount Kailash, Tibet

The beginning of the 4th month is ideal for the pilgrimage of Mount Kailash. The nomads plant their tents in the surroundings. The anniversary of the awakening of Sakyamuni Buddha, 15th day of the 4th month, is particularly spectacular.

At the locality of Tarboche, the great prayer pole is changed in honor of the illumination of Buddha Sakyamuni. The pilgrims surround the new flagpole with prayer flags and furs and receive the sacred pieces of the old flagpole.

The importance of the place is related to the sanctity of the nearby cemetery of Drachom Ngagye durtro, known to have been blessed by Guru Rinpoche. This locality located at the beginning of the Kora (the peregrinal path that goes around Mount Kailash).