Where the Dragon Dances: A Tale of Myth, Culture, and Celebration

Where the Dragon Dances: A Tale of Myth, Culture, and Celebration
Photo by Tong Su / Unsplash

On the day of Buddha Jayanti, a mythical creature made its way to the Mayadevi Temple in Lumbini, captivating the attention of all its visitors. This creature was not a deity, nor a statue, but a 10-meter-long yellow, golden dragon with a red face and enchanting eyes. This dragon, a symbol of water, heaven, and good harvest in South Asia, had travelled all the way from China.

The Dragon's Arrival

The dragon was brought to Nepal by students of Buddhist studies from the Hainan province of China. Carried by ten people, each balancing the creature's body with a meter-long stick, the dragon danced gracefully under their command. The sight was so mesmerizing that it quickly became the main attraction of the 2567th Buddha Jayanti on May 5, drawing crowds larger than usual to the temple's premises.

The Dance of the Dragon

For three days, the dragon circled the temple, floating over the space near the Ashoka Pillar and Pushkar Pond. The sight of the dragon dance, especially, thrilled the children. The dragon's eyes and face were painted red in accordance with Chinese tradition, symbolizing peace and safety. Buddhists believe that dragons help remove envy and instil positivity in people.

The Dragon in Buddhist Tradition

"Dragons are a dominant symbol for Buddhist people," said Buddhist scholar and senior anthropologist Basanta Bidari. The Therbadi community considers the dragon a symbol of protection. According to their legends, a snake named Muchalinda protected Buddha from heavy rainfall after his enlightenment in Bodhgaya. However, many believe it was not a snake but a dragon that shielded Buddha, reinforcing the protective power of the dragon in the Therbadi community.

The Significance of the Dragon

Despite being a fantastical creature, the dragon holds immense historical and symbolic importance. Ornithologist Hemsagar Baral emphasizes that worshipping the dragon carries significant cultural value. The dragon's dance at the Mayadevi Temple in Lumbini was not just a spectacle but a testament to the rich tapestry of Buddhist tradition and the enduring power of myth.

The dragon's dance at the Mayadevi Temple was a unique blend of myth, culture, and celebration. It served as a reminder of the rich symbolism and cultural significance of the dragon in Buddhist tradition. As the dragon danced, it brought together people from different walks of life, creating a sense of unity and shared heritage. The dragon's dance was indeed a dance of peace, positivity, and protection, embodying the very essence of Buddhist teachings.