The Tai's are culturally an advanced community, they love to celebrate and celebration is a fundamental part of their life. Each month of the Tai calendar is marked by a festival and Nuean Sii or the March month is marked by the offering of stupas to the monastery and reunion of Buddha with his family. This festival falls on the full moon day of Nuean Sii (March). The special feature of this festival is the building of eighty four thousand (84,000) sand pagodas which is built in the name of eighty four thousand Scandhas of the Tripitaka. Along with this, the festival is also marked by the renovation and reburnishing of the old pagodas, shrines and other monuments. New ones are also built.
According to Tai Buddhist tradition, the first man ever known to built a sand pagoda was a poor labourer who lived during the time of Taneng-Kala Buddha, one of the many Buddhas who had come and gone before the one whom we know as the Gautama Buddha. The man was feeling unhappy because he could not do any deeds of merit like building stupas. One day he saw silvery sand dunes shining in the sun. Inspired, he mixed the sand with clay and built a beautiful stupa and decorated it with flowers.
Because of this good deed the man, as he went through the innumerable lives in the cycle of rebirth, never knew what want meant. Then came the time of the Gautama Buddha, and he was born in a rich and noble family. He renounced his lay life and entered the Buddha's Order. As a monk, he had gifts given by his lay disciples; they were more than he could use. So he gave them away to his brethren. He attained the highest stage of enlightenment and he was also gifted with the super normal powers of knowing his past lives. He told the story of how he once built a sand stupa, and the blessings that resulted from this deed of merit.
The festival of sand pagoda is socio religious in nature. In the evening the devotees illuminate candles in and around the Pagodas, shrines and other monuments and take blessing from the Almighty Lord Buddha. As a ritual the sand pagodas are decorated with Kekya (an artificial flower), Chaku Tankhon and Thii (religious flag and umbrella). Chow Siri - the traditional priest, pray to the Goddess of earth "Nang Musungthuri" during this occasion. The devotees, from senior citizens to children, old and young use to participate in this festival and pray for a happy and peaceful next life and also pray for the wellbeing of their families and the whole community.
By: C.K Tunkhang.

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