21-23 February: The king’s birthday, Fire puja, and Vajrakilaya ceremonies

I can’t seem to find the screen shots I took of the prince’s birthday or the royal anniversary, but each of these events is greeted with a digital poster and poem. The king’s birthday gets a full three days of celebration, as opposed to a single day (sometimes a working day, sometimes not) given to other kings and important personages.

Sherubtse held a birthday celebration, complete with birthday cake.

My students were invited (read: compulsory attendance). KPS students were also present en masse.

James and I split our focus between the secular celebration and a fire puja being held at the Zangto Pelri. This puja was part of preparing for a Vajrakilaya ceremony beginning the next day. We wrote names of the living and the dead on a piece of paper, and, because James had been very interested in discussion with some monks the day before, we were invited to sit with those performing the ceremony. Offerings of grains (lentils, rice, barley, grasses, and other substances) were presented to the officiating monk and then cast into the fire with copious amounts of oil.

Other small goblets (on a second table) held offerings of rice and milk. At the appropriate moment, one of the monks took the lists of names (ours and others) and cast them into the fire as well. This should enable people who have died to find a positive rebirth.

When the ceremony was over, we were invited to take tea with the monks, but we went back to the festivities at Sherubtse, meeting up with our neighbor Mr. Pant,

and eventually having lunch with the President and the guest of honor, who invited us to visit him in his home in Rongthung. (He and James had an extended conversation about rambling around the hills in these parts, and he pointed us to a path from Yonphula to a more remote monastery and then down to his village.)

The following day, James and I went to part of the Vajrakilaya ceremony at the Zangto Pelri. James snapped a photo, even though we were inside the temple. I think this is naughty, but so many people here, including monks, take photos inside the temple, which makes it harder for J to resist.

I was amazed by the precision of the dancers working within the tiny space of the rows between the monks. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for the entire ceremony because we were catching a ride with Karma down to Samdrup Jongkhar, and heading from there down to Delhi for the annual Fulbright conference.