For Mahayana Buddhists around the world, Sagadawa is the holiest month of the year and celebrates Buddha’s birth, Nirvana and Parinirvana (death). It is marked on the full moon of the fifth lunar month and due to its astrological significance it is a holy month during which merit is believed to count manifold over that accumulated at any other time. The whole month is a time devoted to religious practice and celebrations and people celebrate by making prostrations, taking vegetarian vows, saving animal lives and giving alms to the poor.

Monks playing ceremonial instruments on their way to the unfurling on the Great Thangka
A Monk carrying a parasol, a symbol if protection and one of the eight great auspicious symbols
Butter lamp sculpture created for the celebration

 Young monks outside Ritoma Monastery

 Left: Monks leading the prayers at the unfurling of the Great Thangka

Each monastery has its own way of celebrating, and in Ritoma, Sagadawa is marked every year by a ceremony and the unfurling of the Great Thangka in the village. The Thangka features the Maitreya deity, the Buddha of the future who represents love and compassion. The ceremonial unfurling blesses the land, bringing people together to pray and celebrate, accumulating merit that will reap benefits in the next life.
Locals gathering to watch the unfurling

Left: A young monk holding a ceremonial hat and conch shell
Right: Gelukpa Ceremonial hat