Sonam Lochar is celebrated in Sikkim annually sometime during January-February. An important festival of the Tamang community, Sonam Lochar marks the beginning of their new year. This year, the festival starts from 2 February.
According to the official website of the Sikkim government, the festival will last from five to 15 days in various parts of the state. Sonam Lochar falls in the month of Magha Shukla Paksha during the spring season.
The festival is also marked in Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal as well. In India, 2 February will be a bank holiday in Gangtok on account of the festival. All public and private lenders will be closed on this day.
Sonam Lochar is marked by offering prayers at monasteries. People also visit their relatives to seek blessings from the elders of the family. People wear colourful traditional outfits to mark the importance of the day in their lives.
The festival also sees Tamangs display their cultural heritage by engaging in traditional music and dance performances. Tamang Selo, a special group dance of the community, is performed with great enthusiasm. Many of the dances are performed to the beat of the damphu, a traditional drum.
The songs sung on the occasion of Sonam Lochar highlight the vitality of the Tamang community. These songs are also called Hwai, according to the official website of the Sikkim government. Any celebration is considered incomplete without these songs.
People also clean and decorate their houses and prepare delectable feasts to mark the new year with great joy and celebration. Monasteries in Sikkim also mark the day with great pomp and vigour and organise several events such as dances and musical performances.
The Tamang community believes that Lord Buddha was born on the first day of the new moon, in the month of Magha. Therefore the first day of the festival is believed to be the most significant one. On this day, the main celebrations and dances take place.