Chungdu Lha-Soel: An Offering Ritual dedicated to Ap Chungdu

In Brief:

Chungdue Lha-soel is an annual offering ritual dedicated to Ap Chungdu, the local deity of Haa region. It is observed annually on one of the auspicious days in the ninth month of Bhutanese lunar calendar. The ritual is organized jointly by Haa Dzongkhag administration and people of three Gewogs Eusu, Kartshog and Bji at Jyenkakha, an open space located below Chungdu Central School and above Yangthang village. The Lam Neten and monks from Yangto Goenpa perform ritual of fumigation and appeasement followed by a religious hymn dance dedicated to Ap Chungdu. The Paw, a male shaman leads religious hymn dance accompanied by Pazabs, the local warriors only from Yangthang community. A heap of yak meat, new harvest of wheat and barley flour, fruits, dairy products, and local beverages are offered to Ap Chungdu and local deities. The ritual is mainly observed to appease Ap Chungdu and other Dharma protectors (choesung) and to thank them for their continuous blessings and protection from the natural calamities and misfortunes.


  1. Introduction

Chungdu Lha-Soel is an offering ritual that takes place annually on one of the auspicious days that is predicted by the local astrologer between 7th and 9th of the ninth month of Bhutanese lunar calendar. Initially Chungdu Lha-soel used to be conducted in the 10th Bhutanese month because a yak was sacrificed for the ritual annually and by then the yak would have already migrated to the lower valleys of Haa and it was easier to pick up a yak for sacrifice. It was only in 2014 that yak sacrifices was totally banned and replaced by other offerings. Thereafter, Haa administration and the local leaders decided to organize Chungdu Lha-soel in the 9th month on one of an auspicious dates after the new harvest. Moreover, ninth month is more warmer and favorable weather than the tenth month in Haa.

The half day ritual programme is conducted in a rolling plain at Jyenkakha, the “victory site” which is located above Yangthang village and below Chungdu Central School.

It is a pre-Buddhist practice, and the pre-Buddhist religion was a mixture of animistic conceptions and Shamanistic practices. Bhutan adhered to this belief system which emphasizes the links between humans, animals, plants, rocks, caves, rivers, lakes, the sky, heaven and rain. These elements, which are referred to as Bon-Choe in Bhutan, were considered to possess some power of life-force which could positively or negatively affect human beings. As elsewhere, up to the present day, Bon-Choe is practiced in many of the villages side by side with Buddhism.

People from the nearby village like Gyensa, Hatey, Jamtey Goenpa, Jyenkakha, Lolo, Makana, Tokey, Tsenka, Yangthang, Yangto Goenpa, Damthang, and the students and staff of nearby schools, and believers from the lower part of Haa attend the ritual to pay respect to Ap Chundu and  to accumulate merits through blessing.

There is so far no any historical written document available on this ritual in order to attempt an in-depth study. This ritual has purely survived for many generations as an oral tradition which is in the memory of few old people and elders in the community. This paper aims to discuss origin of Chungdu Lha-soel, Brief introduction to Ap Chungdu, hosts and organizers, contributors and preparations, Main programme of Chungdu Lha-soel and its significance. These will be discussed based on the data collected through in-depth interviews and review of few available written scriptures of the appeasement ritual.


  1. Origin of Chungdu Lha-soel

None of the Bhutanese source sheds light on the origin of Chungdu Lha-soel. However, some elders from Ingo and Talung community trace its origin to immemorial time whereas the senior citizens from the Yangthang community confirm its origin to seventeenth century. Both the Bhutanese and Tibetan historical sources confirm that battles between Bhutanese warriors and Tibetan armies took place after the arrival of Lam Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), who came to Bhutan in 1616 AD.  The elders from Yangthang states that Chungdu Lha-soel was initially instituted to thank Ap Chungdu for bringing victory over Tibetan armies and continuous protection.

After Lam Zhabdrung’s departure from Tibet, Bhutanese encountered several attacks from Tibetan armies from the different directions. According to Bhutanese source, Deb Phuntsho Namgay and his successor Karma Tenchong Wangpo, the Tibetan leaders of Tshang province had dispatched their armies into Bhutan to destroy Lam Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgay. In return they were defeated by the Bhutanese warriors.

Mr. Pema Tshering, eighty two years old from Yangthang community narrates the story that the Tibetan army that came to Haa was badly defeated by the Bhutanese warriors with the help of mythical power of Ap Chungdu. It was at this point Ap Chungdu used his supernatural powers to trick the enemy. He disguised a high cliff into a vast plain and a big fire on the other side at Gensa where Tibetan armies viewed as a garrison of Bhutanese army encamped.  Taking it as an opportunity, the Tibetan marched to attack the Bhutanese soldiers, but due to supernatural powers of Ap Chungdu, the Tibetans fell off the cliff one after another at Jyenkakha Shorina. The place was covered by the dead bodies of Tibetan soldiers. The people of Yangthang who own the land could not clean up the dead bodies. They sought support from Talung community and in return agreed to give away a portion of land to the people of Talung. As agreed, the people of Makana from Talung community helped to bury dead bodies of Tibetan soldiers. As per the terms of agreement, even today the upper part of the land at Jyenkakha is registered under Talung community.

Bhutanese warriors credited their victory over the Tibetans to mythical powers of Ap Chungdu, and his support and protection need to be acknowledged by making offerings. In commemoration of the victory and to thank Ap Chungdu for his support and blessing, the inhabitants of Yangthang, and Talung community initiated an offering ritual dedicated to Ap Chungdu at Jyenkakha. Ap Chungdu being a warrior god and a wrathful deity, a yak was sacrificed to appease him to offer fresh blood and flesh. Thereafter the ritual was named Boe-yak which today refers as a Chungdu Lha-Soel. Since then the Yangthang and Talung Community became as the co-founder of the Boe-yak ritual which today people refer as Chungdu Lha-soel.


  1. Brief Introduction to Ap Chungdu, protective deity of Haa region

The great Ap Chungdu is the protector deity of the people of Bhutan, and particularly of Haa Juedzhi,  the “quadrupled-range”. Thus, the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal had enforced that all people whose doors and roofs are erected with woods and roofs hoisted with white flags, must seek refuge in him. The inhabitants of Haa region refer to the local deity Ap Chungdu as Yulha, the god of the locality that is the area in which one lives and makes one’s living. He is also considered as Dralha, the warrior-god who assists people during violent encounters. Some refer to the deity as Kyelha, birth god, because a child born in the region, where the territory is protected by Chungdu. He is also worshipped as Choe-dag, the Dharma Protector.

In absence of written sources, it is very hard to describe the origin of Ap Chungdu. However, the little written source informs us that in the eighth century Guru Padmasambhava, an Indian tantric master visited Bhutan on the journey to Tibet. He tamed all the local spirits and demons, which had threatened the human beings’ life. He converted all these local spirits and demons to Dharma Protector including Ap Chungdu. Thereafter, Chungdu became Dharma protector of the western Bhutan and protective deity of Haa region.

The propitiation ritual of the protective deities of Drukpa Kagyu tradition offers the following vivid description of Ap Chundu. His physical appearance is like the colour of blue turquoise. He bears two eyes and two strong arms. He holds a sharp sword on the right hand and a protective shield in his left hand. He wears a strong helmet made out of precious iron. He is dressed up with colorful scarves. He is seated on the wind horse. He is a powerful deity who manifests in many ways to protect people and the Drukpa Kagyu tradition.

The offfering texts composed by Lamas invoke him with synonyms. The synonym for Ap Chungdu are: Dorji Draduel, Yudrung Zichen Oebar, Magpoen Dralha Chenpo, Dralha Chungdu, Chung Leg Tsel and Ap Chungdu. However, most of the Bhutanese show respect by calling him simply as Ap Chungdu, which sounds like calling an ordinary man. Ap Chungdu  is widely known in Bhutan and therefore, in this paper I prefer using simply Ap Chungdu.

Most of the temples in Haa district bear a statue or painting of Ap Chungdu. Popularly, Lhakhang Karpo and Gyechukha are known as the main living abodes of Ap Chungdu among his other sacred sites. People of western Bhutan, especially Haaps worship him as Dharma Protector, birth of god, warrior god and god of valley. For them Ap Chungdu is the only true protector of their welfare both for family and the community. They believe Ap Chungdu protects all sorts of calamities and misfortunes. Haaps consider the pure Rocky Mountains and high peaks of the region as his dwelling places. There are also few hills and mountains designated for Chungdu’s dwelling places where people are restricted from cutting trees and extracting minerals from the sites.


  1. Hosts and Organizers

Chungdu Lha-Soel is a half day ritual programme hosted jointly by the Haa Dzongkhag administration,  Haa Rabdey, Yangto Goenpa and the people of the three Gewogs of Eusu, Kartshog and Bji. Each one has their own task for the day. The Culture Officer of Haa district takes care of the overall coordination and management in consultation with the local leaders of the three Gewogs.  Haa Rabdey and Yangto Goenpa provides religious services that include ritual cakes preparation, altar decoration and performing fumigation and appeasement ritual at the site.

People and local leaders of Eusu Gewog organize the morning programme at Lhakhang Karpo.  They organize the procession (Chipdrel) and the fumigation ritual (Lhab-sang). They are also responsible for arranging the local warriors (Pazabs) for the Chipdrel from Lhakhang Karpo to Jyenkakha when Ap Chungdu is invited to the ritual site. Similarly, the Gup and people of Kartshog Gewog are responsible for arranging porters and horses for Ap Chungdu and guests. Earlier in absence of motor road connection guests used to ride on horse from the Lhakhang Karpo till the ritual ground. Nowadays many still walk with the procession.


Among the local leaders, the Gup of Bji Gewog holds heavy responsibility than any other Gups and local leaders. He decides the date of Chungdu Lha-Soel in consultation with the local astrologer, and then he informs Haa Dzongkhag administration, Haa Rabdey, performers, guests and participants. He is also responsible for preparation at the site in consultation with the Culture Officer of Haa district and liaise with people and participant of the three gewogs.


  1. Contributions and Preparations

The Haa Dzongkhag administration, Haa Rabdey, people and local leaders of Eusu, Kartshog and Bji Gewogs contribute both labour and required resources for the annual Chungdu Lha-Soel. They contribute labour forces for the site preparation, performing religious dances, procession ceremony, cultural programme, collecting woods, cooking and serving, and cleaning and dismantling the ceremonial apparatus (Chadri).

There is no written policy and regulation in place for collections and job delegation for conducting the annual Chungdu Lha-Soel. Through their mutual understanding, the people of the three Gewogs extend voluntary services and required resources for Chungdu Lha-Soel. They do not feel obligated but rather they feel it a moral responsibility and an opportunity to show respect to their protective deity Ap Chungdu and local deities. In addition to labour services, each household contributes wheat and barley flour, fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, local beverages and other available items for the offerings.

Each Gewog has its own task to make contribution for the annual Chungdu Lha-Soel, a custom which has been following since the seventeenth century. The Eusu gewog is responsible of fifteen Pazabs (local warriors) for the procession ceremony (Chipdrel) whose responsibility is to carry procession flags and religious instruments from Lhakhang Karpo till Jyenkakha, the ritual ground. It is also their task for the arrangement of fumigation ritual (Lhabsang) at Lhakhang Karpo and serving tea and snacks to performers, participants and guests. Now this task is shared by the Chungdu Kuenphen Tshogpa which was established in 1992.

Similarly, the people of Kartshog gewog is responsible for arranging porters and horse for transporting protective deity Ap Chungdu and accompanied guests. They are also obliged to offer Marchang, tea and snacks to Ap Chungdu and the participants who are in the procession.

Among the three Gewogs, people and local leaders of Bji Gewog contribute more labour services than any other community since the ritual site falls under the jurisdiction of Bji Gewog.  Yangthang and Talung communities who are regarded as the main stakeholders of Chungdu Lha-Soel fall under the jurisdiction of Bji Gewog.

The Yangthang villagers used to contribute both religious and labour services to make Chungdu Lha-Soel successful. Earlier the lay practitioners of the community used to extend religious services including ritual cakes preparation, altar decoration and performing fumigation ritual at the ground. Additionally, a minimum of thirty men from the community take part as the local warriors (Pazabs) for performing religious dances with the Shaman (Paw) at the ground. Yangthang also contribute free service for pitching tents, hosting flags, and installing gate at the ritual site. They are also responsible to contribute local beverages for the welcoming ceremony (Marchang).

Among the local leaders, the Bji Gup and Mangmi play a key role for the Chungdu Lha-soel. They fix auspicious date for the ritual after consulting a local astrologer, and they conduct meeting with Dzongkhag administration and stakeholders. Then they inform villagers, participants, performers and guests. Besides that, in consultation with Dzongkhag administration, they initiate shopping for the ritual. They procure a heap of yak meat, offering items, groceries and local beverages from the market.

Similarly, Talung being a stakeholder in the ritual and the second close community to the ritual site makes the maximum contribution after the Yangthang community.  They contribute labour services for preparing breakfast, morning tea and snacks, cooking lunch and serving the guests, performers and participants. Additionally they also take care of collecting fire woods from the forest, managing stores, and cleaning in and around the ritual ground.

A yak was sacrificed during the ritual and every year it was the contribution of the Dorji family. Haa was the ancestral home of Gongzim Ugyen Dorji (1855–1916), the first Haa Drungpa (governor) and the paternal grandfather of Her Majesty Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuk. During the reign of third Druk Gyalpo late Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Haa region was administered solely by the Gongzim Sonam Tobgay Dorji 1896–1953), the eldest son of Gongzim Ugyen Dorji. During his tenure as the Haa Drungpa, he officially instituted the appeasing ceremony celebrations in his capacity which later his son Lyonchen Jigme Palden Dorji (1919-1964) took over the responsibility. He served as a Haa Drungpa and later as the prime minister of Bhutan. After his untimely death, the conduct of appeasing ceremony was taken over by his son Dasho Paljor J. Dorji who continued to offer a yak and rice annually till 1973. Thereafter Dasho Lhendup Dorji (1935 –2007), the younger brother of Lyonchen Jigme Palden Dorji took over as the patron of the festival and then Dasho and his family offered a yak and rice annually for Chungdu Lha-soel.

However, in 2009 the present Je Khenpo, who is the 70th Chief Abbot of Central Monk Body of Bhutan, advised Bhutanese to stop animal sacrifice in any rituals and festivals, and to substitute by other offerings. But, it was only in 2014 the local leaders, Paw, believers and Dzongkhag administration decided to stop yak sacrifice completely for the Chungdu Lha-soel and agreed to replace it by available offerings.

Ap Chungdu is well-known as a warrior god in Bhutan besides being the protective deity of Haa region. The armed forces, the royal family and the government officials consider Ap Chungdu as one of the powerful protective deities among regional deities.

Being one of the distinctive rituals in Bhutan, Chungdu Lha-Soel receives full support from the Haa Dzongkhag administration. Earlier, people of the three Gewogs used to contribute for the annual Chungdu Lha-soel. Now the ceremonial expenses are borne by the district administration as it is acknowledged as an important ritual for the well-being of the nation. Besides, a cash incentive (Chak-Gyeb), is paid for the performers and participants that include Paw, local dancers, monks, cooks and flag hoister. Haa dzongkhag also bear the cost of tea, snacks and lunch served for guests, performers and participants.


After the establishment of Yangto Goenpa (Monastery) in 2018, the task of altar decoration, ritual cakes preparation and performing fumigation and appeasing ritual at the ground are taken care by the lay religious practitioners of Yangthang community. Lam Dorji, the head of the Yangto Goenpa and his monks prepare ritual cakes (torma) out of wheat and rice dough, and the offerings like cooked rice, fruits, milk, butter, cheese, meat, water, incense, flowers, and wine bowl and butter lamps. The ritual activity at Lhakhang Karpo and Jyenkakha is presided by the Lam Neten of Haa Rabdey.

The temple caretaker of Wangchuk Lo Dzong and Namgay Choling is responsible for the arrangement of Marchang and Suja Dresi (Butter tea and snack) for the participants of the procession ceremony. And the Business community of Haa town is responsible for morning breakfast. They serve breakfast to all the participants and the guests who are in procession ceremony when they arrive in town.

The Culture Officer of Haa district takes a lead role in preparation and overall management in consultation with the local leaders of Bji, Eusu and Kartshog Gewogs. In addition to locals, the support staff from Dzongkhag administration contributes labour service for hosting flags, installing tents for the performers and the guests. They also connect an electric line and supply drinking water at the ritual ground.

The staff and students of Chungdu Central School which was founded in 2015 also extend voluntary service during Chungdu Lha-soel. They share responsiblity in serving, cooking and cleaning the ritual ground before and after the celebration. They also host the cultural programme to entertain the guests and general public.

  1. Chungdu Lha-soel Programme

Chungdu Lha-Soel begins early in the morning at 4 A.M. and ends by 2pm. At 4 P.M. Dasho Dzongdag, Dasho Drangpoen, members of the Dorji family, officials of Haa district, local leaders, participants and performers gather at Lhakhang Karpo to invite Ap Chungdu to the ritual ground. Lam Neten and monks perform fumigation (Lhabsang) ritual at Lhakhang Karpo for an hour where the riding pony of Ap Chungdu is blessed by holy water (Thre-soel). After that the Chungdu Tshogpa serves tea and snacks to the performers, participants and guests before they proceed to Jyenkakha.

Right after this ritual, a sacred replica of Ap Chungdu is invited from the Lhakhang Karpo to ritual ground with a grand procession ceremony (Chipdre). Lam Neten, Dasho Dzongda, Dasho Drangpoen, government officials and local leaders of Haa district join in the Chipdrel ceremony from Lhakhang-Karpo till Jyenkakha, the ritual site. The participants, local devotees and guests accompanied by the replica of Ap Chungdu walk till ritual ground which is more than 12 kilometers away. Ap Chungdu accompanied by guests and participants in a long procession are warmly received at certain places by devotees, community people, business men, students and staff.

Local believers and devotees line up on the road for warm reception and to get blessings.  On

the way to ritual ground, elders and family of the house hold stand on the road side to receive

blessings from Ap Chungdu. Some households and devotees serve tea and snacks to participants

and guests who are in procession. Hundreds of devotees, both male and female join in the

procession till Jyenkakha, the ritual ground.


After arriving at the performing ground, they make three round of a stupa (Chorten) which was

built at the site to mark living abode of protective Ap Chungdu. The local leader of Bji Gewog

offer Marchang to Ap Chungdu presided over by the Lam Neten.


Then Lam Neten and monks from Yangto Goenpa perform fumigation and appeasing ritual dedicated to Ap Chungdu and other local deities. The guests, believers, devotees and visitors make prostration and offer appreciation in cash (Nyendar) to Ap Chungdu and local deities.  In the meantime the male Shaman (Paw) gets ready for his performance. Ap Phub Wangchuk, the male Shaman wears  a religious crown (Rig-nga) on the head, and a red scarf with white stripe in the middle (Khamar)  that is worn around the torso. A traditional woven Gho is worn inside covered by a white skirt-like garment (Medyoo), on top of the Gho. He holds religious instrument Drilbu, a religious bell in left hand and a small drum (Dangdri) in the right hand.


The first Paw who performed the invocation ceremony was Chari Tagkar Migkar. He was replaced by Maka Pachay followed by Chopa Pai Zamo, then Nami Yoezer, Pachi Thobi Raksha, Paro Dhendup Golay, Bichi Tshering, Paw Dorji, Paw Ajo and Ap Phub Wangchuk from Haa Tshapay is the 10th Paw who took over last year (2020) upon the request from Haa dzongkhag administration. People believe that during specific rituals, it is possible for gods and spirits to enter these Shamans’ bodies and use them as intermediaries to inform the people about their wishes and demands. Furthermore, the ritual has enormous spiritual authority, establishing both physical and mental prosperity through its blessings for the community.

Before the religious dance, the Paw offers a heap of yak meat, new harvest of wheat and

barley flour, and local beverages (Serkem). Then Paw and Pazabs perform hymn dance to invoke

and welcome Ap Chungdu and other local deities. Twenty male (Pazabs) local warriors from

the Yangthang community join with Paw to sing and perform a dance for an hour. The

Pazabs dress with new traditional woven Gho and traditional boots (Tshog Lham) with Khamar

Kabney, the colorful scarfs wrapped on the shoulder. In absence of modern weapons, Bhutanese

warriors of seventeenth century have only access to a sword (Paata)  for war and safeguarding

beloved and honoured. To mark Paata as the main weapon of the battles in those days, Pazabs

hold a sharp Paata on the right hand which symbolizes the destruction of enemies, the opponents

of Bhutan.


They perform in the presence of main deity Ap Chungdu and other local deities such as Spirit of the living (Soen Dre), Wandering spirit of the dead (Shen-Dre), Mermaids (Tsho-Men), valley deities (Yulha), protector deities (Tsen), regional deities (Nye-Dha), the deity for the foundation of a place (Zhi Dha), local host deities (Nyeb), mischievous (Gyeab), the mountain spirits (Ngyen), yaksha (NyeJen), Warrior gods (Dralha), Dharma protectors (Chesung), spirit of the earth (Sadag), mara or obstructing demons (Dued), Demons (Drey), the deity of one’s birth place (Kyelha),  and the tutelary deity of male (Pholha).


In the prayer, they request to protect Buddha Dharma and the inhabitants of the region, and then to repulse all enemies, rain timely, grant fertility, bring good harvest, good health, safe guard and bless peace and prosperity within family and the community. At the end of the ritual, the Paw, a Shaman bids farewell to the deities and protectors, who return to their respective place; rocks, hills, stone cairns, rivers, lakes, forest and to the high mountains.


After the dance, the Paw predicts good and bad fortune of the individuals, community and the nation. He uses three squared dices of Yangto Goenpa as a prediction tool. He throws three dices on the ground and based on a dot of the dice, he predicts good and bad fortune of the coming year. When he rolls the dice, if the number of three dice aggregates to 5 with 1+1+3 combination, and for three dice if the number is 7 with 5+1+1 combination, it is considered to be very auspicious. If the dice is in even number like 8, 10 and 12, then it is not considered as good as like odd number of 5 and 7. He also advises precautionary measures against misfortunes one has to carry out as soon as possible in the form of protection rituals in order to overcome from the bad fortunes. Some people today question the accuracy of the Paw’s prediction. Most of the elders from Yangthang and Talung community believe that Paw has supernatural power in predicting fortunes of the coming years. They share positive feedback about accuracy of the Paw’s prediction of the last twenty years, and in the past some of the household and family had bad experiences because of failing to conduct the protection ritual on time as prescribed by the Paw.


After this, a flag is hoisted at the top of the pine tree which stands in the ritual ground. People still regard it as the sacred tree planted by Ap Chungdu to hold his Chip, a riding pony. Even to this day, people show respect by advising their own children to avoid cutting down the branches and leaves. Each year they replace an old flag by new one on the day of Chungdu Lha-soel in order to mark an observation of Chungdu Lha-Soel on time. The new flag also signifies presence of Ap Chungdu in the region and the ground is still preserved as one of the living abode of Ap Chungdu. According to an oral source, the tradition of raising a flag at the top of the sacred tree was entrusted to a person from Gensa. For several years, a skilled man who belongs to the descendants of a family was assigned to do this honour. However, now this opportunity is made open to all the men in the region. In consultation with the Bji Gup, the culture officer of the Dzongkhag selects a skilled man to do the honour and he is paid cash incentives for his service by the dzongkhag administration.


Then Lam Neten and Monks from Yangto Goenpa preside a short Tashi Moenlam, a ritual of good fortune and prayer for long life. Then the local dancers and students of Chungdu Middle Secondary School perform the cultural programme to the gatherings for an hour. The cultural programme is concluded by Tashi Lebey where all the guests and participants take part with full of joys and happiness.


Finally the half day of Chungdu Lha-soel concludes by serving the lunch to guests, participants and performers while other devotees depart to their respective home.


Prior to 2014, a free lunch is served in the ritual ground to all that includes performers, guests, participants and devotees including new born babies. They were served lunch with a meat curry that was cooked out of a sacrificed yak sponsored for the ritual by the Dorji family. The Bji Gup used to hire somebody from far distance to slay the yak for the annual Chungdu Lha-soel. On the day of Chungdu La-soel, the yak was brought to the ritual ground early in the morning and it was tied to the sacred tree that is believed to be planted by Ap Chundu for holding his riding horse. After the arrival of Ap Chungdu and participants at the ritual ground from Lhakhang Karpo, Lam Neten performed purification ritual for the yak before it was handed over to a butcher. The butcher slayed the yak behind the tiny slope located on the right side of the ritual ground. The head of the sacrificed yak was offered to Ap Chundu while some meat was given to Paw for his service. And some portion of meat from a heap and internal parts like stomach and kidney were given to the butcher with additional cash wages. The remaining parts were chopped into pieces and cooked for the people to be served in the ritual ground. All senior citizens and other young people took meat as a true blessing of Ap Chungdu to avoid consequences and misfortunes in the coming years. Since 2014 onwards the host and organizers have decided to stop sacrificing a yak and agreed to replace by other offerings. Thereafter, some people have started bringing a pack lunch from home and share among families and relatives in the ground while some depart to their respective places for lunch.


  1. Significance

Chungdu Lha-soel is a special day to offer gratitude to the guardian deities led by main protective and powerful deity Ap Chungdu. Elders state that if we appease those deities and spirits of our surroundings properly, they help us in fulfilling our wishes and protect us from any kind of enemies and natural calamities. Otherwise all these deities and spirits cause suffering for individual, for family and in the community.


Therefore, the elders of the community used to say that Chungdu Lha-soel, an offering ritual of the community has to be performed by a highly capable and spiritually worthy Paw, a male shaman. They believe only a Paw (shaman) have ability to perform the correct rituals for the local deities, and invoke local spirits and guardian deities. The advantages of performing the ritual on time are: rain falls on time, makes their fields fertile and their cattle healthy and fecund, causes good health, fulfils wishes, brings bumper harvest, peace and prosperity in family and within the community.


They also say that if they fail to perform the ritual on time; their fields dry up, cattle fall ill, causes untimely death, stops raining on time, the soil suffers drought, destroy crops by the hails, poor harvest, fight arises among families and natural calamities takes place in uncertain time in the community. The former community leader, Mr. Pem Tshering says that “if the harmony between gods and men breaks down, so there is no way of harmony among men and community”. He also states a famous saying “Yeshey pai Dha Chap sa me Thong, Phog sa thong,” which translates to ‘we won’t be able to see the deities shoot an arrow, but we can see the arrow strike.’


Chungdu Lhasoel also brings family members and relatives together once in a year, forms bonds of social cohesion, fosters and safeguards culture; cultivate feelings of peace, tranquility and happiness. It also gives an opportunity for making prayers for general well-beings and offerings to protective deities. It is also a social gathering and annual meeting point for the relatives and neighbors.


  1. Threats of declining successor of Paw

The traditional way of life is rapidly changing in Bhutan. It has become a challenge to maintain the ritual and festival, its origin form and spirit. The following are main factors that put it in danger:


– Disappearance of a dedicated performer: A Paw is required for Chungdu Lha-soel to invoke and welcome local deities. The local Paw is paid minimal incentives only for the day of Chungdu Lha-soel which is not attractive for the young people to become a successor. As a result there is some risk associated to the decline of practice of Paw.


– No researchers and scholars carried out in depth research and documentation work on Chungdu Lha-soel until now: Only few elders are survived with oral knowledge, and have little time to participate. Some elders go with Yak in summer in high mountains and winter in hot places with cattle. Because of their strong beliefs and unaware of the importance of research, some elders refuse to share their information and some has reservation on disclosing the sacred rituals to the general public.


– Most of the young generations never return to their birth place after their education. They go to other places for the employment, trade and for new settlement. Some leave their home town for their better future and some get married with partners from different cultural backgrounds, which leads to forget their parent’s believes and practices.


– Urban migration is a common issue for all the countries. In Bhutan many people leave their community and migrate to urban areas for their children’s education and future life. Because of the city life, most of the people don’t get time to participate in the rituals and festivals.



  1. Conclusion

Chungdu Lha-soel is an annual offering ritual dedicated to protective and powerful deity Ap Chungdu. It is observed to respect and thank Ap Chungdu and other local deities for their continuous blessing and protections. Animal sacrificial ritual is a pre-Buddhist tradition (Bon tradition) that flourished in Bhutan prior to the arrival of Buddhism. It is still practiced in Bhutan, particularly in rural places but it has now stopped in Haa. People and devotees of Eusu, Kartshog and Bji Gewog strongly believe Chungdu Lha-Soel has the power to establish peace and prosperity for the community, and also destroy all evils and other natural calamities.


This tradition is alive purely as an oral tradition and only few elders are left in the community who has knowledge and wide experiences about Chungdu Lhasoel. Until this paper, none of the Bhutanese researchers and scholars attempted for a detailed documentation about the Chungdu Lha-soel, and apart from Haa region, most of people are not aware of importance and significance of Chungdu Lha-soel.


Local festivals, rituals and beliefs play significant roles in building identity, and also have both religious and social significance. Yangthang community has kept alive this distinct practice since seventeenth century onwards. In the absence of proper recognition and reward for the local performers, the young people do not show interest to take over parents’ believes and practices. Modernization and interest in popular entertainment in the younger generation also results in inability to understand the spiritual value of festivals and rituals.


College of Language and Culture Studies at Taktse, Trongsa initiated an in-depth research and documentation on it to achieve one of the significant pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the culture preservation and promotion of Bhutan, and to create awareness to the general public of Bhutan.


Chungdu Lha-soel is a distinctive tradition that is observed only in Haa region. It is worth for additional research and documentation in order to contribute to its continual success.


Local Informants (Name, age, village)

Ajo (retired Paw) age 79, Talung community (interview 15/10/2021)

Aum Mindu Wangmo, age 66, Kartshog village (interview 14/10/2021)

Dorji (monk), age 46, head of Yangto Goenpa (interview 14/10/2021)

Lam Sangay, age 96, Engo village, Kartshog (interview 5/11/2021)

Pema Tshering, age 79, Yangthang   (interview 14/10/2021)

Paw Phub Wangchuk, age 73, Tshaphey (interview 14/10/2021)



ཀུན་བཟང་འཕྲིན་ལས། (༢༠༡༠) དད་པའི་ས་བོན། ཐིམ་ཕུ། ཀེ ཨེམ་ ཀྲི།


དགེ་འདུན་རིན་ཆེན།  (༡༩༩༤) ཁྱུང་འདུས་ལྷ་གསོལ། འབྲུག། གཞུང་གྲྭ་ཚང་།


པདྨ་ཚེ་དབང་། (༡༩༩༤) འབྲུག་གི་རྒྱལ་རབས་གསལ་བའི་སྒྲོན་མེ། འབྲུག། རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་དཔེ་མཛོད་ཁང་།


མཁན་པོ་བཀྲིས་དཔལ་བཟང་དང་ཚེ་དབང་རྡོ་རྗེ། (༢༠༡༩) ཧཱ་རྫོང་ཁག་སྨོན་ལམ་ཆེན་མོ་ཐེངས་བཅུ་དགུ་པ། ཐིམ་ཕུག ཀུན་གསལ་རང་སྐྱོང་ལས་འཛིན།

Hasrat, B. (1980).  History of BHUTAN. Bhutan. Education Department of Bhutan.

Karmay, S. (1997).  The Arrow and the Spindle studies in History: Myths, Rituals and                beliefs in Tibet. Mandala Book Point.  Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kuensel, Weekend Magazine: The deities in our midst. Saturday, July 28, 2012. Vol. II, issue 29.

Tenzin, S. (2020). The Legend of Pholha Masang Chungdue: Untold Lores from Haa. Thimphu. Kuensel Coporation Ltd.