Yala Paancha Daan
Yala Paancha Daan. According to a legend, the festival that is being celebrated in Nepal since 512 Nepal Sambat is the “Paancha Daan Parva” celebration. Yala Paancha Daan festival is celebrated during the month of Gunla i.e. Shravan month on the day of Shravan Shukla Ashtami in Patan. During the Yala Pancha Daan festival, Buddhists take out the five statues of Dipankar Buddha from the monastery and take them for a procession around the city. Today’s festival is called “Yala Pancha Daan” as it is celebrated in Yala i.e Patan. Gunla festival, is also celebrated during this month. Dipankar Buddha was the one who prophesied that Siddhartha Gautam would become the Buddha.
Apart from the first celebration in Patan, Paancha Daan is celebrated on Bhadra Krishna Trayodashi in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Thimi, Banepa, Panauti, and Kirtipur. This festival shows the importance of charity, considered very sacred in Buddhist philosophy.
According to a well-known legend, when monk Dipankar came to Patan for a charity, he did not accept it even though the then king gave him a lot of donations. Similarly, a donation given by a poor woman named Laxmi Thaku, living in Guit Bihar of Patan at that time, was accepted by Bhikkhu (monk) Dipankar with great gratitude. Upon hearing this incident, the king began to work as a goldsmith to earn money. The king, then collected various items from the money earned by his own sweat and when he donated, monk Dipankar accepted it.
According to this legend, a part of the money or income earned by Buddhists is saved for a donation and it has been the practice to donate it during today’s festivals. It is said that this festival is celebrated in memory of Dipankar Buddhas’ acceptance of donation in Patan. In this festival, Buddhist Newars worship Dipankar Buddha, meditating on the glory of Pancha Daan.
In a general sense, Pancha Daan means a donation of five things, but in Nepal Bhasa, it is called Panjara meaning “virtuous donation”. And, according to Nepal Bhasa, Panjara means kheer i.e rice pudding, therefore today the Newar community cooks it and offers it to Lord Buddha. During this same month, after the paddy plantation during the month of Asar, it is customary to eat Kheer on the Shrawan 15 among all Nepalese. In this way, apart from donating home-cooked kheer, it is also customary to feed relatives and friends.
Today, the Buddhist Newar community of Patan builds a charity center at their homes, including various monasteries, and chowks around them, and from there they donate grains, fruits, nuts, and Dakshina. Among the followers of Buddhism, Bajracharyas, Buddhacharyas, and Shakyas participate in donation receiving throughout the day.
Buddhism developed into various branches or schools after the enlightenment of Shakya Muni Buddha. Among the developed branches/traditions (Shravakayana, Mahayana, and Bajrayana/Vajrayana) the Newars of the Kathmandu valley, are influenced by the Bajrayana tradition of Buddhism. Thus they have developed different cultures according to Bajrayana tradition. According to this tradition, by developing and using various practices, the principle of becoming a Buddha in this very birth is adopted by them.
Among these various practices, the Newar Buddhists of Kathmandu valley have been giving a very important place to the practice of donation/charity since ancient times. Accordingly, they have been practicing giving it in various ways. Thus, the celebration developed as a festival by giving special practice to charity can be considered as Pancha Daan festival. In this community as well as in Buddhism, this festival is known as the festival of worshiping Buddha Bodhisattva.
There is some difference in the Pancha Daan festival celebrated in Bhaktapur as compared to its celebration in Patan and elsewhere. In Bhaktapur, this festival is celebrated with a procession of five statues of Dipankar Buddhas from five different monasteries of historical and archeological importance. There is also a tradition of playing the traditional Gunla Dha: instruments during this celebration, which is played only at the Pancha Daan festival. In the same way, Buddhist monuments preserved in traditional monasteries are also displayed publicly on this occasion.
In Bhaktapur, five Dipankars from Prashannashil Mahabihar, Jhaur-Bahi, Chaturbramha Mahabihar, Jai Kirti Bihar, and Kuthubahi Bihar are taken on a procession around the city. Before the procession, as a custom, these images of Dipankar are gathered at Adipadma Mahabihar in Suryamadhi. After performing special worship at this gathering, the images are circumambulated around the town along with traditional music. According to the Buddhist tradition, followers also participate during this procession with a Gulupa (kind of a bowl) in their hands to participate in Daan receiving. In the end, the festival is concluded by donating a collective Daan to all Dipankars, during which they are kept on the western side of Taumadhi square.
The tradition of giving a donation and receiving is believed to bring religious and spiritual progress as well as salvation for both sides. To make human life meaningful, one should help others. Since giving selflessly in this way brings supernatural happiness, donating and helping other can be imitated from all community and their festival. As it is a good thing to donate let us develop the habit of helping everyone as per our capability.
It is our common responsibility plus duty to study, explore and preserve the heritage and culture of Nepal. We all should develop the spirit of decency, peace, wisdom, friendship, and cosmopolitanism as a common culture on this occasion of the Pancha Daan celebration. Let us all do the work of applying ointment of humanity in the sad hearts, with donation and charity. Best wishes from the Nepali Patro to all our readers and users on the occasion of Paancha Daan Parva/Yala Pancha Daan Parva.