Great Buddha Day in Mongolia

Great Buddha Day, also known as Saga Dawa Festival, is an important Buddhist festival celebrated in Mongolia. The event is called "Сагаа даваа" in Mongolian. The celebration marks the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In Mongolia, Great Buddha Day is observed on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month, which usually falls in May or June according to the Gregorian calendar.


The tradition of celebrating Great Buddha Day in Mongolia dates back to the 13th century when the Mongol Empire adopted Tibetan Buddhism. The Mongolian ruler Altan Khan invited the Tibetan spiritual leader Sonam Gyatso to Mongolia in 1578, and they formed an alliance that strengthened the bond between the two nations. This alliance led to the establishment of Gelugpa Buddhism in Mongolia and the beginning of the Mongolian Buddhist tradition. Since then, the Saga Dawa Festival has been celebrated annually in Mongolia to honor the life and teachings of the Buddha.


National customs for Great Buddha Day in Mongolia

On Great Buddha Day, Mongolian Buddhists observe various customs and rituals to show their devotion and respect for the Buddha. The day usually begins with prayers and offerings at monasteries and temples across the country. Devotees offer flowers, incense, and candles to the Buddha statues and participate in religious ceremonies led by monks.

Fasting and abstaining from meat are common practices among the faithful during the festival. People also engage in acts of charity and kindness, such as giving alms to the poor and releasing captive animals into the wild. These acts are believed to help accumulate merit and purify one's mind.

Another significant aspect of the celebration is the hoisting of prayer flags. People hang colorful prayer flags on poles and rooftops, which are believed to carry prayers and blessings to the entire world when the wind blows.

Local customs for Great Buddha Day in Mongolia

In addition to the national customs, there are several local customs and practices unique to different regions in Mongolia. For instance, in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, the Gandantegchinlen Monastery hosts a special ceremony that attracts thousands of devotees. The monastery displays a gigantic thangka (a religious painting) of Buddha, and the monks perform chanting, prayers, and other rituals throughout the day.

In the rural areas, people often gather in open spaces to perform traditional dances and music, as well as to stage dramas that narrate the life story of the Buddha. These cultural performances not only provide entertainment but also serve as a means to educate the younger generation about Buddhist teachings and values.


Great Buddha Day is a significant religious and cultural event in Mongolia that brings people together to honor the life and teachings of the Buddha. The festival is marked by various customs and rituals, including prayers, offerings, fasting, acts of charity, and cultural performances. As a celebration of enlightenment and compassion, Great Buddha Day reminds the people of Mongolia of the importance of spiritual growth and the pursuit of wisdom.