Gods and Sacred Mountains | Animated Nature | The Worship of the Gods | Village Ritual | The Course of the Ritual

The Course of the Village Ritual

The first two days of the festival are spent with secular and ritual preparations. Alone the creation of the often artfully decorated dough figurines takes up much time. Again and again, the lay-population perform dances or men and women compete in singing contests. One group sings a single verse and the other has to answer in a fitting and, if possible, in a more humorous manner. The social aspect of this gathering definitely stands in the foreground of both days - if one understands the mountain god to be a religious expression of social unity, this also makes sense in a religious context.


The high point of the festival is the last day. Now all the villagers dress up in their finest clothes. In one northern province the women wear a tunic-like garment which nowadays is only worn on this special day. These tunics were originally the daily attire in these regions, before they were displaced by contemporary fashions. With these clothes, one probably wants to show the mountain god that the old traditions are still held in high esteem.

Now the deity is invocated. It can often happen, that the medium of the village is possessed by it. The community can now come into direct contact with the deity. Questions can be asked and the deity answers directly through the mouth of the medium.

The War Dance

Men from the most respected families of the village now gather in the temple in front of the shrine of the protective gods. They are often dressed up in the costumes of the ancient warriors. In this way, one shows the deity that one is quite willing to fight when it is asked for help or support. While in earlier times the causes were real and imminent military expeditions, so today it is the battle against evil itself. Afterwards, the warriors dance in the courtyard of the temple in order to banish the harmful spirits. Then they move to the hut - especially built for this purpose - in which a Lama performs the ceremony in front of the altar, decorated with torma*.


Bhutanese Weapons for Warfare Zoom


This procession, however, does not take the most direct route. Rather, in zig-zag movement, it marks off the collective territory of the community which is now again within the protective area of the benevolent Yül lha*.

At the close of this festival of worship, all of the sacrificial gifts are consumed at a great feast meal which is given for all of the participants.

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Silk brocade with gold thread decoration, embroidery, cotton; height 31 centimeters, width 28 centimeters; on loan from the National Museum of Paro
This hat represents a specific deity. As soon as a medium in trance puts its on, the deity takes possession of him. Man can now come into direct contact with the deity and, for example, receive information about the future or ask for support in the fight against harmful influences.

Tunic (shingkha), wool, wool and silk applique; length 121 centimeters, width 97 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
Tunics of this kind are nowadays only worn by the women of the Kurtö region at rituals for the mountain gods. The wearers emphasize that this is not everyday wear. In many villages, these are only allowed to be worn by women from the most important families.

Swords, iron blades, silver and brass handles, wooden sheath covered with hide, casing made of wool and cotton, length 93 centimeters; on loan from Tobgye S. Dorje
As real weapons of war these swords have served their duty. Today, however, for the protective deities they are still stored in special altar rooms. During certain rituals they are used for war dances.

Respected men, dressed as warriors, dance for the pleasure of the protective deities. During this, they wear the type of weapons which were still used in battle at the turn of the century.

Each temple houses an altar dedicated to a protective deity. Here they find a place of refuge and are offered sacrifices, which only wrathful deities demand. Only a few are permitted to open the shrine doors. For the uninitiated, the terrifying sight of the wrathful deity would be harmful.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

Respected men, dressed as warriors, dance for the pleasure of the protective deities. During this, they wear the type of weapons which were still used in battle at the turn of the century.