Tantric Practices and Their Performers, 4-7


4. (pp. 111-144) Franc,oise Pommaret : " ‘Local Community Rituals’ in Bhutan".

pp. 112-113, 118-119 Bon and other non-Bauddha religions in Bhutan

p. 112

"For the Bhutanese, rituals that ward off evil spirits or propitiate local deities ,,, are considered Bon chos." [fn. 4 : "in the Nine ways of Bon, the first two deal with divination and rituals to local gods".]

p. 113

"The trend is ... more articles being published in Bhutanese newspapers on rituals and the importance of local deities in daily life, especially by the Bhutan Observer ... in its Dzongkha as well as in its English versions. ... the development of BBS, the national television, has also contributed ... programmes which feature the traditions of Bhutan."

p. 118

"These rituals are always performed in an open space, not in a temple. {This is likewise true of the Vaidik rituals detailed in the Brahman.a-s and in the Aran.yaka-s.} A ... common ground ... has a natural feature considered as the soul (bla) of the deity such as a stone, a rock, or a lake. During these rituals ... is invoked ... all the deities who live in the landscape ... as well as household deities such as the yul lha, sgo lha, gung lha. The main deity is generally the yul lha ..., also called gnas po ... in Bhutan. ... The deity sometimes comes down to the village by a ladder or by ropes, reminding us of the divine dmu rope through which, in pre-Buddhist Tibet, gods ... came from the sky. {Shamanic descent to another world may be via a ladder in Borneo, etc.; the ‘rope’ is Chichimec.}

p. 119

The outdoor space ... is ornamented with flowers ... as well as often with ... stones representing the cattle."

Tucci 1949 = G. Tucci : Tibetan Painted Scrolls. Roma.

Haarh 1969 = E. Haarh : The Yarlung Dynasty. Copenhagen.

pp. 119-123 specific non-Bauddha deities worshipped in Bhutan; their practitioners

p. 119

"Among all the deities, one which is important for the Bumthang and Khen regions ... is Ode Gungjel and he has to be invited from Bsam yas in Central Tibet. This deity is probably the Tibetan god >O de gung rgyal". [fn. 21 : >O de gung rgyal is a very important deity of the pre-Buddhist religion which is mentioned in Dunhuang manuscripts as early as the 8th century [Chr.E.]. He is considered to be one of the four Sky deities, phyva brothers, and he came down from the sky to earth to be the father of all the mountain deities ... . His abode is a mountain in >Ol kha ..., not far from Bsam yas. See among other, Tucci 1949:728-33; ... Haarh 1969:passim".]

p. 120

"The practitioners ... have different names according to the regions :

bon po, dpa> bo, dpa> mo, jo mo, snyal >byorm, pha jo, phra min, lha mi.

Their function can be hereditary through family lineages, or it can be imposed on them after a sickness or a trance."

p. 121

"the local community ritual called Bon chos in Bhutan provide ... a space for non-Buddhist practices. ... . ... other local community rituals ... contain sequences that are similar to Bon chos rituals ... . ... For example,

in Laya (Gasa district), the local deities are propitiated ... .

In the eastern Bhutan region of Tong phu, during the Hungla ritual ... around the fields ... a procession (chos skor) ... lasts two days.

In Stang O rgyan chos gling (Bumthang district), the bskang gso ... is a grand ritual for the chos srung Mgon po man ning performed by ... lay practitioners. But it also contains ... non-Buddhist elements with propitiation of all the local

p. 122

deities of the territory ... .


Still in Stang, the ritual called rab gnas at Nam mkha> lha khang ... propitiates the chos srung Mgon po and Lhamo, known in Bumthangkha as Gadpo and Gadmo, ‘old man’ and ‘old woman’. ...

{cf. "ritual figures, the Api-Meme (A phyi me me) grandmother and grandfathers ... who ... are old and decrepit" ("LCPh", p. 181).}


One of its main elements is a yak manniquin who performs a dances and blesses the villagers. It represents the local deity gter bdag Rin chen dgon g.yag".

{"the young men’s alamdar, ... one of them wearing a wild yak’s hair wig." ("LCPh", p. 185)}


"certain forms of Mgon po are regarded as >jig rten pa, ‘those who are within this world’." [fn. 32 : "In Bhutan famous examples are ‘The Raven-headed Mahakala of action’ (Las mgon bya rog gdong can) and Mgon po Byang bdud who are a pair ... first associated with the protection of >Jigs med rnam rgyal, the father of the first king."]

p. 123

"Mgon po and Lha mo in Stang rab gnas are for the villagers equivalent to the ancient Gadpo and Gadmo; during the bsksang gso ritual in O rgyan chos gling the cult of Mgon po ma ning is accompanied with the worship of all the local deities ... . Yar tsha pa, the local deity and nor lha ["nor lha, which is the god of the cattle (nor)" (p. 118)] of the people of Toebesa (Stod sbi sa) in western Bytan is worshipped ... along with Mgon po during the mchod pa of the Hongtsho village near Thimphu."

"LCPh" = Fernanda Pirie : "Losar Celebrations in Photoksar". In :- Martijn van Beek & Fernanda Pirie (ed.s) : Modern Ladakh. Leiden, 2008. pp. 175-193.

p. 125 internet websites on Bhutan

"the Bulletin of Tibetology, the Journal of Bhutan Studies and the Revue d’Etudes tibe’taines can be downloaded from" http://www.digitalhimalaya.com

specifically, from http://www.digitalhimalaya.com/collections/journals/

"The Journal of Bhutan Studies and Wayo, Wayo can be downloaded from" http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt

pp. 130-144 Bhutanese rituals






"Gazang Gunglha is the name of a local deity which is believed to reside on the roof of the house (gung). This ritual is a Bon ... ritual. The phrami (local practitioner) becones possessed by the deity ‘Gazang Gunglha’ and through its spiritual power the phrami performs the ritual to cure the sick person."



"Gakha Dokha is a ritual belonging to the ancient Bon practice ... . ‘Gakha’ literally means the upper deity, which in this case is Tshongtshongma (the mother spirit) and ‘Dokha’ means the lower deity, Memi Pangzampa (the father spirit). {According to the Na-xi (Na-khi) the first woman came from above (the sky) down to the first man, who dwelt on the earth.} ... The process of the ritual begins with ... varieties colourful dresses hung on a frame tied to four pole erected in a ‘c’ shape.



... the phrami ... begins his ritual by inviting Tshongtshongma from the northern mountains. She is verbally invited and guided along the path till the place where the ritual takes place. ... Then he goes on to invite Memi Pangzampa by following the same procedure. After the offering recitation is over he takes the deities back to their citadels along the same path through which they were brought."



"Kharamshing is a ritual ... as well as the name of a particular wooden structure characterized by a phallus ... . It is typical of Eastern Bhutan ... . It is believed to be a Bon ritual ... . It is performed to protect against a curse that arose from an original act of incest.



... This ritual requires that many household items are {be} attached on a wooden frame, also called kharamshing, which is entirely made from a local tree known as robtang shing (Lat. Rhus chi[n]ensis ["RhCh"], Anacardiaceae family). ... They represent the food and essential items to be given to the kharam (curse and ill-luck)). A cup ... which acts as a lid ..., and an egg which represents the heart of the evil force is placed in the middle of the structure ... . The upper wooden structure is then encircled with nine varieties of strings in a spider web shape ... . ... . ... men take turns hitting the central egg, symbolizing the curse, with arrows."



"the term Pamo (dpa> mo) refers to both the ritual as well as the performer ... a woman ... . ... Normally one of the daughters inherits the practice from her mother. It is said that the deity spiritually designates who should be the future practice holder from amongst the daughters ... . The ritual ... consists of sex hours of continuous dance and recitation during which the Pamo remains spiritually possessed by the deity. She sits on a carpet of banana leaves on which a swastika has been designated with rice grains and covered with a cloth. ... The pamo performs divination; she identifies the causes of the family problems and suggests remedies ... .



The pamo conducts three main ceremonies :

The first ... called Khandro Dalam ... is directed towards restoring and revitalising the life fore of the host family threatened by evil spirits.

The second is the Choesung Tangra ... directed towards repelling evil influences and restoring good ... luck by pleasing the local deities through offerings. ...

The third is the Shakpa (shags pa) ... a thanksgiving ritual symbolising her gratitude to the deities for all the spiritual power and support rendered during the past one year and for future supports as well."



"Jachung Michung is a very usual religious dance which is performed in only two places in Bumthang, one of them being Buli



and the other Jampa Lhakhang. It is a mask dance ... said to be a ‘treasure’ revealed by the great saint Dorje Lingpa (14th century AD). ... This dance is performed once every two years ... . The performers are gomchen (lay religious practitioners) ... . The main characters in the dance are ... the sun of the god Jajin (Indra) and a jachung (Garud[.]a, mythical bird). The dance is based on the well-known folk story of a princess who lost her way from China to Tibet ... . One day, the king of the gods, Jajin, happened to meet the wandering princess in the forest and they had a relation resulting in the birth of a son. However, since the princess ... left the child all by himself in the forest ... jachungs spotted the child (michung) and attacked him. But fortunately Jajin ... came to the child’s rescue ... . ...

One of the most important episodes is when women who desire to have a child are blessed with sacrificial cakes in the form of phalluses. It is said that this ritual is a blessing for childless parents in order to conceive."



"Hungla is a community based annual ritual performed by ... lay practitioners involving womenfolk ... . ... The next morning after the firefight, ... lay practitioners holding musical instruments lead a long procession, followed by the women ... . They circumambulate all the fields belonging to the community ... . This procession, called choekhor, takes two days to make the full round and ... ends with a grand feast. ... On the other hand, if the ritual is neglected, it is believed to cause natural calamities such as epidemics and diseases".



"Phendey Choep is a ritual with a unique mask dance dedicated to the mountain deity Yartshapa, who is the local deity of the people of the area of Toep Phendey, widely known as Toebesa, a community under Thimphu district. ...



One of the dancers dresses up in the costume of Yartshapa and represents the deity".



"The Lhabon (or Lha Boe ‘calling the gods’) is a three-day annual event for the people of Tshangkha, Trongsa District. It is apparently an ancient Bon practice ... . ...



The deities are formally received from their abodes in the mountains by a procession of dancing and singing villagers headed by the ritual master. ... At the end of the ritual, the deities are taken back to their mountain abodes. ... To mark the successful ending of the ritual, women entertain the audience with songs while men perform the ‘drum dance’, which is believed to have been introduced by Guru Rinpoche to his followers before he departed to his paradise."



"Monpa is a name of a community under Trongsa district. The focus ... was ... the agricultural New Year of the 10th Lunar month. In this area, they use only a wild potatoes dish ... to celebrate."



"Ashi means ‘older sister’ and Lhamo means ‘Goddess’. This ritual is unique ... because it is performed only my women in Ura, Bumthang district. It is a 3-day ritual to please all their local deities ... . A group of village women will have to climb in the early morning to the summit of the mountain overlooking Ura to dance and invite the deities to come ... for the 3-day celebration."



"Kharpu is apparently an ancient Bon practice ... . It is celebrated ... all over the historical Kheng region, which today is divided between the Zhemgang and Mongar districts. ... It is a ritual performed in order to ... receive blessings from the deity Oede Gungyel ... for the entire community. ... the main practitioner, called bon po, visualises a journey to Tibet to invite the deity to come from Central Tibet via the Monla Karching pass and Bumthang through an invocation. The deity’s seat in the village is a stone adorned by flags for the occasion. ... Villagers bring ... small stones that represent cattle which are tied to the makeshift altar. The bon po and his assistants sing A Hoi, and make the offerings. He then does the divination with banana leaves and gives names to the stones which represent the cattle. People then take them back to their homes as blessings. ...



Toward the end of the celebration the villagers visit ... the village astrologer ... . Finally, the bon po conducts a ceremony to send the deity back to Tibet via the same route through Bumthang and the Monla Karchung pass."



"This three-day annual ritual ... is .. performed for ... the upper Tang valley villages who are the sponsors of this ritual. The Tibetan Lama Namkha Sumdrup ...



in the 16th century ... saw the Tang local deity Rinchen Gonyak ... coming as a yak and dancing in the courtyard accompanied by Gonmo (Lhamo) and Gonpo (male deity) ... . ... The highlights of the festival are the dances of Gonpo, Gonmo (Lhamo), and Rinchen Gonyak. ... The yak, also simply called Dawala by the villagers, ... is considered to be a source of blessing through the clanging of its articulated jaws."



"This ritual takes place in the remote northern region of Laya (Gasa district). ... Fumigation offerings are made to the local deities, and men sing verses starting with ‘Aoley, Aoley’ {cf. Spanish /ole`/?}, to which other men reply ‘Legs so, legs so’. During the ritual, groups of men and young women visit the houses of the five Laya villages at night in turn and in a specific order. ... The young women, wrapped in black cloaks with their face covered, follow the men. It is said that it is a way for the Laya girls to find out the wealth of their prospective spouses incognito."

"RhCh" = http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20564459 & http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/r/rhus-chinensis=chinese-gall.php


5. (pp. 145-162) Nicolas Sihle’ : The Ala and Nakpa Priestly Traditions in N~emo".

pp. 145-146, 148, 151-153, 158, 160 non-Bauddha religious practitioners

p. 145

"the cult of local place gods ... are performed by the laity or, in certain areas, by ritual specialists called for instance lhabo:n [lha bon] or *aya ... .

p. 146

These ... show .. the *ala ... of Nyemo [Snye mo] county" ["part of the ... province of Tsang [Gtsang]" (fn. 4)].

p. 148

"all Nyemo ala are Bo:npo".

p. 151

"two similar collective rituals are performed : a Cho:kor and an Ongkor [>Ong skor], typically in the fifth and seventh months of the Tibetan lunar calendar". [fn 15 : "Cho:kor corresponds to the welcoming of the Kongpo Tenma Chuyi [Kon po brtan ma bcu gn~is] the ‘Twelve Tenma goddesses of Kongpo’ (a region in south-east Tiber), on their way northwards, and the Ongkor, to the seeing them off, or accompanying them, for their return."]


"In Zangri, the main day of the Cho:kor was preceded a two day ... Chirim [Spyi rim] (often pronounced Chitrim; probably ‘Collective ritual’). This consisted in a reading of the Bum [>Bum], a classic (... Bo:npo) text of the Perfection of Wisdom (Skt. Prajn~aparamita) literature".

p. 152

"the priest ... would ‘put on (a/the?) robe’, chupa [phyu pa]; ... he donned the robe; a special white chupa, worn especially for the cho:kor. {cf. ras-pa ‘cotton clad’ Bodish dKar-brgyud practitioners} In and around Zangri, the white chupa is a prescribed, well-known, exclusive and marked feature of the Cho:kor, the Ongkor, and more precisely the ala’s role in these rituals ... . Besides the white robe, the ala priest ... would also wear a red shawl across the breast, as well as a large, thick, ring-shaped hat {the ring-shaped hat is also <arabic} of white wool called *pedok [bal?]. ... .


... representatives of each Zangri household ... gathered in the {Bon} monastery courtyard, each one carrying on his or her back a small wooden ‘book frame’, petri [dpe khri], on which one or several of the volumes of the {Bon} scriptures housed in the monastery were fastened. ...

p. 153

Then followed ... a statue of one of the foremost deities of the Bo:n tradition followed in the Zangri monastery, Trowo Tsochok [Khro bo gtso mchog], Supreme Chiefly Wrathful One, carried by a monk ...; then a stuffed badger, drumpa [grum pa] {there is a Navaho badger-god, as well as (ERE, vol. 8, p. 610b; ME) a Japanese one}, carried attached to a stick and held with its mouth facing forward and upward ... ...

The circumambulation, performed in the Bo:npo, anticlockwise direction, scrupulously encircled all of the Zangri fields".

p. 158

"Two other contexts are mentioned recurrently for the ala’s purification rituals : death, and the birth of an illegitimate child (*chemnak)".

"Finally, some rituals seem to be associated ... with ala. This is the case particularly of ... the introduction of the bride to her new domestic deity, or the act of attaching a turquoise on the top of the head of the bridge (accompanied by a song called yushe` [g.yu bshad], the ‘explanation of the turquoise’)." [fn. 25 : "in certain Nyemo villages, the officiant (... an ala) who sang the ‘explanation of the turquoise’ was called aya-bo:npo."] {like the badger-god, the turquoise is significant in Navaho religion}

p. 160

"in Nyemo, the ala are ... a (local, Bo:npo) sub-category of ngakpa." [snags-pa (p. 147, fn. 7)]

ERE = James Hastings (ed.) : Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. http://books.google.com/books?id=EEQlVC_clo8C&pg=PA610&lpg=PA610&dq=myth+%22badger+god%22&source=bl&ots=sOhQ8-P6fi&sig=zLXJHsbVM77MSEf9BIpXJihaANI&hl=en&ei=T8rKTKqpIMSp8AaVwvXKAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&sqi=2&ved=0CCkQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

ME = Mythology Encyclopedia http://www.mythology.totalroute.net/2007/01/page/12/


6. (pp. 163-188) Danzang Cairang : "‘Spirit Media’ (lha-pa) of Reb-gon in A-mdo".

p. 165 spirit-mediumship

"When a lha pa goes into trance, he utters ... lha skad, or divine language. The lha pas not only use this language to express their thoughts in idioms and songs, but they also employ various hand gestures {mudra-s} to convey the meaning of their communication and indications. ...

During their se’ances, lha pas wear an upper outfit, boots, and a small-sized thang ka as well as a blessed thread and amulet while they perform their duties. Before going into trance, a lha pa typically puts on a new outfit and then offers a fire-puja and juniper incense."


7. (pp. 189-199) Marcia S. Calkowski : "Signs of Transition : on Interpreting Some Praedictors of sPrul-sku Rebirth".

p. 190 prasedictors

"Examples of dreams or visions of religious persons or objects include

parents’ dreams of interactions with lamas,

mothers’ dreams of receiving special gifts from lamas,

dreams of elephants approaching households where boys have recently taken birth,

magnified manifestations of important lamas, and

apparitions in the shape of large mysterious men."

p. 195 prohibitions for others

"his clothing cannot be touched nor stepped over by non-family members, and, in particular, by unknown women. Little girls, who might inadvertently jump over the boy in play, should be kept away from the boy as much as possible."


BRILL’S TIBETAN STUDIES LIBRARY, Vol. 10/12 = Sarah Jacoby & Antonio Terrone : Buddhism beyond the Monastery : Tantric Practices and Their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas. Leiden, 2009.