Date    :   May, 2011
Venue :  Sikkim

Sakewa is the annual, nine-day festival of the Kirat Khambu Rai community of Sikkim, celebrated as a tribute to Mother Earth.

The Rais are mainly cultivators who consider themselves as the children of Paruhang, their god who is believed to have dwelled in the Himalayas. They have been celebrating the festival of Sakewa since ancient times.

The festival begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Baishakh, which coincides with the months of April and May. The main puja or ritualistic prayer is performed by the head priest known as the Nakchhong, accompanied by the other priests
(mongpas), in an open space. It is performed as a community puja. The puja or Sakewa is also known as Bhoomi Puja or Chandi Puja.

As part of the puja, prayers are offered to the Supreme Power for peace and protection and for the well-being of all the living and non-living things of the universe. Offerings of sweets and food grains are also made to Lord Kubera, the God of food and wealth.

During Sakewa, various ceremonial dances of Silis are performed. One of them is the Sakewa Sili, performed by women as a prayer to Mother Earth for aid in cultivating a good crop. There are other dances, depicting animals and birds, to express gratitude to the Creator. The Chasum Sili depicting the cycle of sowing and reaping and finally, eating the cooked rice is very popular.

Various traditional dishes like wachipa (rice cooked with burnt feather and meat of chicken), bungchipa (rice cooked with a herb giving the taste of wachipa), Arakha-Hengmawa (local wines made from millet and maize), baksa (roasted pork) and okrukma (bread made of beaten rice) are served to guests. Old traditional tools and antiques are put on display.

Sakewa has evolved to become a symbol of brotherhood and unity as members of different communities in the state actively take part in the celebrations. With the recognition of the Rai dialect by the state government and the declaration of Sakewa as a state holiday, the festival got a fillip and is now organized on a grand scale.
At Namchi, Sakewa is celebrated as a tourist festival which begins with the Shakti Puja at Mangkhim followed by the Shova Yatra (exhibition rally) all round the bazaar, and finally, the cultural performance.