Samyak Mahadan, also known as the festival of Dipankara Buddha is observed once every five years in Patan (Lalitpur), In Kathmandu, Samyak is held at the Darbar Square and Bhuikhel in Swayambhu once in every 12 years, whereas in Bhaktapur, the festival is an annual celebration. The first Samyak Mahadan is said to thave taken place in Nepal Sambat 135 (1015 AD). The festival is organized to honor Dipankara Buddha, who predicted Lord Sakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment in the previous lifetime
This ceremony dates back to Licchivi period when a merchant, Sunder Sarth Bahu, invited the Buddha idols from all the monasteries to the feast during the rule of King Brish Dev in the sixth century AD. Dharma Jyoti Kansakar of Keltole organised a similar event in 1653 AD and invited King Pratap Malla. Since then Wotu, Lagan and Itumbahal residents took responsibility for organizing the ceremony at an interval of four years. As the name suggests is an alms giving Newa Buddhist festival held once in every five years in Patan. The two day-long centuries-old tradition is held on a large open ground in Nagbahal, where hundreds of idols of Dīpankara Buddha (one of the Buddhas of the past) are assembled for worship. Devotees from all walks of life give away different types of gifts including money and food to the deities, their keepers, monks and the Buddhist communities.
The story behind Samyak Mahadaan
It is believed that the first Mahadaan event was organised by Bhari Bharo, a Thakuri king and son of King Bhaskardev, around 700 years ago. He was a poor king and a Buddhist follower who cared deeply about his people. However, being in his position, he could not share their poor economic status. He then started collecting guintha (bundles of cow dung) and storing them in his storeroom, away from everyone including his wife, to make them think he has riches there. The curious wife found a key and looked into the room where she found heaps of gold and riches. The king also found the riches and realized it was his devotion and faith in the Buddha that gave him such wealth. Bharo then decided to call upon the deities from around the valley and gave them the offerings as a way to give back to society. Since then, the festival started being organised annually on falgun Shukla Tritiya and Chaturthi (third and fourth days of the waxing moon in Falgun) as a way to commemorate the king’s gesture.
However, since 1806 (1862 BS), the festival started being organised every five years, during which the Mahabihar collects revenue and donations for the next four years. The Mahabihar does not receive a separate fund to organize the festival and with the government’s acquisition of land that belonged to the Mahabihar, it has not been able to organize the festival annually as the move hit its revenue collection very bad. For this year, the Hiranya Varna Mahabihar Organizing Committee collected over Rs 2.8 million for the festival. It received a commitment of Rs 500,000 each from the Lalitpur Metropolitan City and the Nepal Tourism Board for the festival, informs Sujit Shakya, the coordinator of the committee. The festival will now conclude after the yashi is pulled down next Monday. It will be safely stored to use for the next Mahadaan event. The very next day, the organizing committee along with the members of the Hiranya Varna Mahabihar will also be going to Jalbinayak for a concluding puja.
The festival, since it is organised every five years, is not well-known among youngsters and many of the other people, worry the organizers. However, with increased press coverage and other promotional activities, they say the festival received an overwhelming response from all sides this time.
Despite the overwhelming participation and increased awareness, the organizers yet do not feel that they will be able to organize the festival annually again; the revenue collection is not enough yet.