Saga Dawa Celebrations in the Russian Buddhist Region of Kalmykia

June 1, 2007

Author: Julia Jironkina


The Saga Dawa celebrations in the southern Russian region of Kalmykia have literally caught everyone by surprise with an extremely large extent of religious activities and events. Being declared a national holiday, as had been suggested previously by the head lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche, the holy day of Buddha’s birthday, Enlightenment and Parinirvana drew every family to the main temple of Elista. Named the Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni, the temple was built at a place consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his short visit to the republic in 2004.

A major event of Saga Dawa celebrations was a display of a 12-meter long pictorial representation of the Buddha Shakyamuni which was actually an enlarged copy of a thanka offered to the Russian Buddhist republic by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his first visit to Kalmykia after the end of the era of atheism and repressions.

The enlarged representation of the Buddha was displayed on the wall of the temple which is considered to be the highest in Europe, and later consecrated by Kalmyk and Tibetan monks. When asked, the temple monks say that the idea to order and display such a big thangka came spontaneously as a means to remind Kalmyk people of the greatness and kindness of the Buddha.

“As human beings, we all share a desire for compassion love, kindness and happiness, - says head lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche. - But happiness is not something that falls from the sky. To get it, we must learn from the Buddha and use his teachings in our daily lives”.