Hewang Thran ཧེ་དབང་ཕྲན།


To date, there seems to be no texts regarding the origin of Hewang Thran, celebrated every year on the 10th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar. Hewang stands for “temple” in the local language, and Thran for “flattened rice; hence Hewang Thran is a festival of the offering of prayers (གསོལ་མཆོད་) and flattened (pounded) rice (འབྱ་སྲིབ) made of the year’s new harvest. This type of festival is celebrated all over central and eastern Bhutan in various forms and under different names. Using the name Hewang Thran, however, it is celebrated only in Dandung and Namthir villages in Langthel gewog, Trongsa dzongkhag.

Lay practitioners perform the ritual in the temple for one day, and in return the villagers believe that by the grace of the local deities, no disasters or epidemics will befall them. Moreover, they will be blessed with many domestic animals, bountiful crops, and abundant wealth.

Description of Activities

Early in the morning on festival day, the caretaker prepares all the required offerings, including the ritual cakes (torma གཏོར་མ). From about 6:30–7:30 am, the village’s seven or eight lay practitioners (gomchen སྒོམ་ཆེན་) enact the ritual of offering incense to the gods (lhabsang ལྷ་བསང་). Following this, sponsors serve a porridge (thuep ཐུགཔ་) to the gomchens.

At about 8:00 am, the ritual for the long life Buddha, Amitayus (Tshepame Choga ཚེ་དཔག་མེད་ཆོ་ག་) begins, which also includes rituals for the local deities. Breakfast is served at around 9:00 am, followed by the morning break. Tea is served twice, followed by a lunch at about 1:00 pm. The ritual resumes at 2:00 pm, followed by another tea break at 4:00 pm, resuming again at 4:30 pm, followed by one more tea break.

When the ritual comes to an end, all sponsors of the day and outsiders attend the giving of blessing ceremony (ngodup langwa དངོས་གྲུབ་བླང་བ་) inside the lhakhang. The head lama blesses attendees with a religious cake (tshetor ཚེ་གཏོར་), which represents the deity of long life, Amitayus (Tshepame ཚེ་དཔག་མེད་), and gives them the nectar of long life, amrit (tshechang ཚེ་ཆང་), and long life pills (tsheril ཚེ་རིལ་). These offerings bless attendees with longevity, so that they can engage in good deeds throughout their long lives. The head lama dedicates the meritorious deeds (ngowa བསྔོ་བ་) of sponsoring the festival for the benefit of all sentient beings and the well-being of sponsors. Finally, around 7:00 pm the ceremony ends with prayers and wishes for prosperity.

After a few minutes break, the sponsors serve dinner to the lay practitioners, while the rest of the villagers sit in a line outside the temple. Then the lay practitioners distribute a blessing of nectar, long life pills, and feast offerings (ཚོགས་) to the villagers, who are served tea and dinner by the sponsors.

In other rituals, sponsors usually pay a stipend to the ceremony’s performers, but as the Hewang Thran ritual is so closely linked to the offering of flattened rice, sponsors still follow the ancient practice of giving the practitioners this rice in lieu of money. They offer three bje of flattened rice to the head lama (ཚོགས་འགོཔ་), two bje to the leader of the performers (umze དབུ་མཛད་), and one bje to the remainder of the performers as per their rank. A bje (bre in Tibetan) is roughly equal to half a kg, although the quantity is not standardized and thus varies according to the region.

Changes to the Ritual Festival in 2014

Until 2013, the social category traditionally called the taxpayers (khyalp ཁྱལཔ་) were those involved in processing the flattened rice, made from the new harvest (འབྱ་སྲིབ) of the year, for 3 days before the ritual.

At the temple at about 5:00 pm on the day of the ritual, the head of community (chipon སྤྱི་དཔོན་) used to receive ten to eleven bje (བྱེ) of flattened rice from each of the eight taxpayer households. (The traditional social category of non-taxpayers (zurp ཟུརཔ་), of which there are 18 households, were not entitled to offer their rice.) The taxpayers and head of the community then decided whether this quantity of rice would be sufficient for the villagers’ dinner. One of the cow herders received milk and whey (dao དརཝ་) from each village cow herder and gave an offering inside the lhakhang. One house of a few taxpayers prepared and served the morning porridge (thuep), while all the zurp households together prepared tea four times a day for the lay practitioners who performed the ritual.

The eight taxpayer households were divided into two groups – the upper area (todpa སྟོད་པ་) and the lower area (madpa སྨད་པ་) – and they sponsored the ritual festival. One group prepared a lunch in one of their family’s household, and they served this meal to the lay practitioners; the other group prepared a dinner for the lay practitioners. In the evening, after the entire village gathered outside the temple, the head of the community (chipon སྤྱི་དཔོན་) served a dinner of one measure (phuel ཕུལ་), around 200 g, of flattened rice to each villager, while the cow herder served whey.

A couple of major changes in the rites took place in 2014. First, the community decided that all attendees will now be served a dinner of rice and curry in lieu of flattened rice and whey. They stated as a reason that the villagers complained of being served cold flattened rice and whey in the cold evening, which was creating an adverse effect on their health.

Secondly, both taxpayers (khyalp) and non-taxpayers (zurp), without any discrimination, are now entitled to sponsor the religious festival, giving them equal and genuine rights in the local community. To this end, the 26 houses in Dangdung village have been divided into two groups: the Central Dangdung group (དྭངས་དུང་སྡེ་ཚན་) and the Tajong group (ལྟ་ལྗོངས་སྡེ་ཚན་). The Central Dandung group sponsored the 2014 Hewang Thran, while the Tajong group sponsored the Guru prayer, Nyipai Choedpa (གཉིས་པའི་མཆོད་པ་), on the 10th day of the 2nd month of the Bhutanese calendar.

Beverage Offering Ceremony (Marchang Serkhem མར་ཆང་གསེར་སྐྱེམས་)

In Bhutanese culture, important occasions begin with a beverage offering to please the local deities. This ceremony has no relationship per se with the Hewang Thran festival, but as Hewang Thran falls on a day of prosperity, an offering coincides with the festival. The village’s dancers offer a beverage so that the deities will help them practice the religious dances of Dorji Lingpa’s lineage throughout the following 35 days in preparation for the Dangdung Mani festival (དྭངས་དུང་མ་ཎི་), which is held on the 17th–19th days of the 11th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

The beverage offering proceeds as follows: After dinner, around 9:00 pm on the 10th day of the 10th month, all the village’s male religious dancers (champa འཆམ་པ་) and folk dance performers (zhema གཞས་མ་) gather inside the lhakhang, each with a half bottle of local alcohol, to participate in the ritual of beverage offering. If anyone does not bring the alcohol, he or she is liable for a “dry penalty” (kamcha སྐམ་ཆད་) of 25 Nu.

One villager starts a bonfire outside the lhakhang to light up the night for the religious dances. After the offering to the deities, the dancers perform religious dances to the accompaniment of cymbals played by the umze (the one who leads the religious dance). These dances are followed by traditional folk dances performed by women from the village. After this, until late at night, young people from the village entertain spectators with traditional dances. All the dances are auspicious and symbolize prosperity and joy. With these dances, the Hewang Thran festival comes to an end!


Lama Tashi Wangdue, spiritual head of the religious establishment (gomde) in Bayling, Langthel
Tharchin, 51, gomchen, Dangdung village, 2014
Nima Dorji, 35, gomchen, Dangdung village
Aum Karma, 73, Dangdung village


Tenzin Dorji, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2014


Sonam Jamtsho, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2014

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