Friendship, harmony, a lofty mountains and wrathful deity- these are the four things that Pang Lhabsol, an annual festival in Sikkim is about. The peaceful hill station was once torn apart by strife and enmity between Lepchas and the Bhutia ( of Tibet region). Locals believe that Pang Lhabsol was first celebrated sometime in 13th century to mark the beginning of peaceful relation between the warring groups. Lepcha chief Thekongtek and Tibetan crown prince Khya Bumsa erected nine slabs at Kabilunchok (near Gangtok, the current capital), tied animal intestines around those, and took a blood oath of friendship under the gaze of mighty Kanchenjunga (considered a guardian deity of Sikkim by the Lepchas). Mahakala, a deity revered by followers of Vajrayana Buddhism as the enforcer of dharma, is also associated with this historic occasion.
Held in several monasteries across Sikkim in the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar (August-September) every year. The festival is becoming popular among tourists, photographers and documentary filmmakers. The highlight of the day long festivities is the mask dance, an ancient Bon Tibetan ritual, by the monks. Local turn up in big numbers to seek blessings of the deities and the monks, while visitors eagerly await the parade of the dancers in colourful masks and drapes.