Monday, September 17, 2012

Yak-lha, The Lost Culture of Shingkhar


Yak-lha, literally means the god of Yak. It is a festival that was once very popular in Ura community. The entire locals in the community considered the event as pious and holy as any other auspicious days in the calender. Especially for those yak rearing families, it used to be the much awaited days of the year. The event is observed on the fifteenth day of the seventh month in Bhutanese calender (which normally coincided with September month in Gregorian calender.) 

Although there are not many documented history to prove its origin, the history based on oral transmissions says that the origin of Yak lha culture can be traced as back as to the days of Guru Rimpoche himslef.  (or even before that) In the seventh century when Guru Rimpoche first visited Bhutan, the first thing he encountered were the prevalent Bon religion and its practitioners along with their masters. 

So, In order to gain peoples' faith and establish Buddhism as an ultimate way of life, Guru first had to overcome those powerful Bon masters. 

Therefore, this particular event have a reference to Guru's encounter with the most powerful, versatile, intelligent and the most feared Bon master called Oode Gongjan. 

According to a oral fable, it is said that in order to establish their supremacy in the locality, both the Buddhist master and Bon master agreed to contest for a debate.

The debate went on for weeks and months unending but the prominent winner could not be declared. So after so many days, weeks and months, both of them mutually agreed as to how the ultimate winner could be declared.

Both of them agreed that who ever reaches on the summit of Mount Gangkar Tese, the next dawn, at the crack of the day (i.e when the first rays of sun touches the summit) wins the contest. It was also agreed that the one who loses should renounce his claim of supremacy and should leave the region altogether. 

The next morning, Oode Gongjan almost won the contest. Guru Rimpoche who rode on the rays on sun to reach summit, beat him by a margin of  few steps. This infuriated Oode Gingjan. He threw away his drum in anger down the mountain which eroded portion of mountain along.

But Guru Rimpoche did not give him the ultimatum!. He gave Oode Gongjan an option. Guru Rimpoche gave him an option to become the protector of dharma and that he would be still worshiped as Nor Lha, Oode Gongjan gracioulsy consented. Guru also told Oode Gongjan that his loss of contest would be richly compensated and that he would be given a grand offering every month in different regions. 

Today Oode Gongjan is being offered the grand offerings in different regions in different months. Yak-lha  was one such offering offered to him in seventh month in Ura community. Since he was to be worshipped as Nor lha, perhaps that could be the reason why offering to Oode Gongjan in Shingkhar was done among the yaks (known to locals as Nor) Other such offerings are being made in Zhemgang (known as Kharpo), Mongar, Lhuntse and in many other regions. 

Now in Shingkhar, yak rearing  has formally ended when my father finally sold off his small heard last year. With this, it appears that the two age old culture and traditions, which thrived for many centuries are lost simultaneously in Shingkhar. 


 Note: This is a story as told by my Uncle who is a lay man. 


To be continued..................

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I think it is a shame that some of the most profound aspects of our culture are compromised with the changing times. Festivals like these should be preserved. Tourism may be bring the sustainability.

    ReplyDelete

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