Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The Buddhist ritual | Sacrifices


A minimum of sacrifices is necessary for all rituals. They are either put up on the altar in front of sculptures, thangkas, books, miniature stupas or photographs of saints and teachers.

The usual arrangement contains seven bowls, placed in a row. The first two contain water for drinking and washing. The third one is filled with corn grains and with flowers or flower arrangements, depending on whether the ritual is carried out in honour of a female or male deity. In the fourth bowl there are corn grains and several incense sticks as sacrifice, this appeals to the sense of smell. The fifth one is a butter lamp, which, like the sun and the moon, lights up the darkness; it symbolises the expulsion of the darkness of ignorance. The sixth one contains perfumed water which is meant to calm the spirit. In the seventh bowl there is usually an edible sacrifice in the shape of a ritual cake. Occasionally, an eighth bowl is put up with wheat as symbol of music.

For sacrifices to the protective deities one limits oneself to five bowls. In the first one there is water symbolising blood, in the second one there is a heart-shaped cake made of tsampa, which symbolises the five senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, heart). The incense sticks in the third bowl are meant to evoke the smell of boiling fat. The fourth bowl contains water tasting of bile. The small, red, triangular cake in the last bowl symbolises a sacrifice of meat and bones. All of these are symbolic offerings which are meant to be changed into the substances needed for the ritual by meditation, reciting of mantras and ceremonial gestures of the hands.

Seed container Zoom

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Rund um den kegelförmigen Mittelteil aus Teig werden liebevoll die besten Speisen arrangiert, die zur Verfügung stehen.
Foto von Christian Schicklgruber

Butter lamp (chökong), gold; 19th century; H: 21,5 cm; loan from the Paro Dzong
Following an old Indian tradition, light is offered to the gods and thus religious merit is obtained. Next to plant arabesques, the bowl is decorated with eight Buddhist symbols of happiness, arranged in pairs. The foot is made up of two rows of lotus petals.

Seed container (drubhor), silver with fire-gilding; H: 12 cm, diameter 8,5 cm; loan from a private collection
The skulls at the belly and lid of the container point to the eight types of meditation of the yogi. The handle is made out of half a vajra*. In the course of the ceremony the lama strews the seeds to bring blessing and happiness.