Lha Bon


Lha Bon, an ancient ritual offering and invocation, used to be practiced by people of several villages under Trongsa Dzongkhag who were Khelps (khyalp), or tax payers. However, today only Taktse and Yuesa communities continue to perform this ritual. It is an invocation prayer calling the local deity, whom they refer as Lha (lha), to protect them and their crops, and to dispense his blessings. The invocation is led by the phajo (pha jo), or local priest, of the village. Nobody in the village knows exactly when or by whom this invocation started but the ritual is related to the ancient religious beliefs of Bon.

Description of Activities
It is practised for three consecutive days in the two villages on alternative years. The people led by the phajo go to the abode of the local deity to welcome him only every three years. The other two years, the invocation and the offerings are done in the villages without going to the abode. The invitation/reception of the local deity falls alternatively on the two respective villages.

The Lha Bon is performed mainly because people believe that they will be blessed by the local deity and that he will help them throughout the year. If they perform the ritual, there will be no epidemics, disasters or bad weather in the village, and they will be blessed with healthy animals and bountiful crops.

When the people go to the abode (Phola Dzong, which is in the northeastern part of the village and is around four hours walk from the village) to invite the local deity, the three-day ritual begins. The routines over the course of these three days are described below:

First Day
People (which includes the dancers) led by the phajo go to the abode of the local deity. The phajo chants the prayers of invocation and invites the local deity to the village. There they appoint attendants to the local deity and a man representing a horse of the local deity. After the prayers, the local deity is ushered down to the village in a ceremonial way, led by people dancing and singing (the people who go to the abode are from the village in which the Lha bon is held that particular year).

After reaching the village, the phajo begins the prayers while people dance and sing until dark. At night the phajo continues the prayers while the people of the other village go from house to house singing and dancing, which, they believe to be a blessing to the individual houses. In each house, offerings of cereals are made to be blessed by the people going around (people are believed to embody the local deity coming to bless them). The whole night people refrain from sleeping.

Second Day
People continue singing and dancing and the phajo continues his prayers. People make different offerings from dough, shaped as domestic animals. They believe that the local deity blesses the animals they have offered. In the evening, the local deity is seen off through prayers, though the people do not go to the abode to return the deity.

Third Day
During the last day people simply go from house to house singing and dancing, and at the same time drink locally brewed wines and spirits.

 Informant: Pema Gyeltshen, Taktse village, 2012

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