Sitatapatra: The White Umbrella Puja
The Sitatapatra puja that took place the past December 23 to 25th, marked the end of the cycle of pujas in 2019 in the Do-ngak Nyida Zungdrel Sherab Raltri Ling Monastery in Chapagaun, Lalitpur, Nepal.
Who is Sitatapatra?
Sitatapatra is a female deity whose power and “magical formulas” originated from the crown protuberance (ushnisha) of Buddha Shakyamuni while he remained in samadhi in the heaven of the Thirty-three. Sitatapatra’s name in Tibetan is Dukkar, which means “white umbrella,”,and it is the main emblem that she holds with her left middle hand. She is brilliant white in color, and full of love and compassion. She is depicted with 1,000 heads, 1,000 arms, 1,000 legs and 1,000,000 eyes! She holds a variety of weapons, and with her central hands she holds a dharma wheel and the handle of the white parasol.
The practice related with this deity is found both in the sutra and mantra traditions, and it is considered a powerful method to avert obstacles. Sitatapatra is therefore invoked to protect practitioners against calamities and malignant beings. Reciting her mantra averts evil influences and purify defilements. Her powerful dharani protects one when worn in an amulet. Additionally, the dharani has the power to alter the weather and gives immediate protection in adverse circumstances. The practice of Sitatapatra contains many rituals such as fire offering, torma offering, drawing mandalas, and establishing protective circles. Her dharanis were often inserted as dharma relics into stupas.
Sitatapatra: Removing Obsacles
During the three-day Sitatapatra puja in Chapagaun, Tulku Pasang Tshering, one of the main lamas in our Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, guided the practice as the vajra master. He was joined by drubla Tenphel Gyatso, lama Ngawang Yeshe, and around 30 monks from Ka-Nying, Riwoche and Chapagaun gompas. On the first day of the puja, the ritual master set the mandala with the required tormas and offerings. The main torma represented Sitatapatra, her retinue and palace. This is a white torma with colourful adornments and Sitatapatra’s image on the top. The outer offerings are the same as those usually set for a peaceful deity. But since the practice is meant to avert obstacles, there was another table set right beside the mandala with a fierce-looking torma and a set of offerings for the wrathful deities. The mantra and dharani were recited with loud and strong voices, the drums and trumpets were played fast and intensely, and we all felt energetic while ordering the obstacles to leave! The second torma was used as the receptacle for the invoked obstacles, and it was thrown and burned on the last day of the puja.
Now all negativities and obstacles have been removed and the path is clear for good conditions to come for all!