Mangde Azhang Solkha མང་སྡེ་ཨ་ཞང་གསོལ་ཁ།


Festivals that resemble Mangde Azhang Solkha are celebrated all over central and eastern Bhutan in various forms and under different names. Mangde Azhang Solkha, however, is unique to Yuesa village in Dragteng gewog, Trongsa dzongkhag.

There seem to be no texts regarding the origin of the festival Mangde Azhang Solkha, which is celebrated every year in the 3rd month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is a festival of the offering of prayers (གསོལ་ཁ་), derived from the Bon tradition, in which villagers offer feast substances (ཚོགས) to Mangde Azhang Dragpa Tashi. Dragpa Tashi is in the tsen category, which suggests a type of violent spirit who has power over the entire subterranean and earth deities. Mangde Azhang Dragpa Tashi’s territory is from the upper part of Tongleg-la (སྟོང་ལེགས་ལ་) to the lower part of the Mangde River. The villagers call him Azhang (uncle) out of respect and closeness. He is also called the great violent spirit (བཙན་ཆེན་) and is further known as Nyaga Tsen (ཉ་ག་བཙན་). The offering to him falls in the black offering (ནག་མཆོད་) category, which suggests offerings given to a violent local spirit.

The local priest, called the phajo, performs the ritual for one day. Local villagers believe that by conducting this ritual the local deity will grace them by ensuring that no disasters or epidemics will befall them, and there will be no frost or hail on the bitter buckwheat and sweet buckwheat (བྱཱོ་དང་གེ་རེད་) fields. Moreover, they will be blessed with many domestic animals, bountiful crops, and abundant wealth.

Mangde Azhang Solkha ritual is held at Semlek Pang, located in a flat area two kilometers down from Yuesa village. This is not the Azhang’s abode, which is on the bank of the Mangde river where the Tansibji and Mangde rivers converge, but the ritual is held here.

Description of Activities

Taktse and Yuesa used to collaboratively sponsor this solkha, but when they were divided into two different communities in 2008, the Yuesa people unanimously agreed to sponsor the festival on their own; neighbouring Taktse sponsors a different solkha in their village.

On the morning of festival day, the head of Yuesa community (chipon སྤྱི་དཔོན་) collects the provisions (གཉེར་ཚང་): 2 phuel of rice, (phuel ཕུལ་ – 1 measure is around 200 gm); a half liter of milk and beverages; 1 kg of meat (this can be replaced by either of 1 piece of local cheese (དར་ཚིལ་) or 2 eggs); a small amount of butter or oil, sugar, salt, tea leaves, and chili; 1 phuel of wheat flour; 1 bje of unhulled rice (རེད); plus 20 Nu from each Yuesa household. (A bje is a bre in Tibetan. The quantity varies according to the area, valley etc. It is not standardized. Usually 1 bje is equal to roughly one half kg.) The chipon keeps these provisions in his house.

At about 10 am, one participant from each household gathers at the chipon’s home, where they prepare the feast for Mangde Azhang and the meal for the phajo and themselves. In earlier times the householders gathered at Semlek Pang to do this preparation, but due to later water shortages they decided to gather in the house of the head of the community. At about 10:30 am, the phajo and chipon pack the ritual offerings and head to Semlek Pang, where the phajo prepares all the offerings, including the ritual cakes (torma གཏོར་མ་) and an extra cake of “ransom” (gludtor གླུད་གཏོར་), which is offered in lieu of a human being to please the spirit.

At about 12 pm, the phajo, wearing a large white scarf with red stripes, starts the service by first reciting a prayer, after which he reads the text of the Azhang’s prayer, which is 17 pages long. This is followed by a tea break at around 1 pm, during which the phajo prepares the feast offerings in three vessels filled with rice, meat, and eggs. The ritual of ransom resumes at 1:30 pm, with the phajo turning the face of the ransom cake toward the Mangde River in an offering to Mangde Azhang.

The ritual ends around 2 pm, when the phajo goes back to the chipon’s house, where he is paid a stipend and served a meal alongside the villagers. With this meal, Mangde Azhang Solkha comes to an end.


Phajo Pema Gyaltsen, Tashi Dingkha
Ngudup, 74, Yuesa
Aum Bale, Yuesa

Researcher and Photographer

Tenzin Dorji, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2015

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