Thangbi Mani Festival
Thangbi Mani Festival or tshechu is one of the most popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Gewog, near Jakar in the Bumthang Valley. Thangbi Mani Festival is held in the courtyard of a Thangbi monastery built in 1470. The monastery is said to be originally founded by 4th Shamar (redhat Karmapa) Choki Drakpa and in the later years, it was taken over by Pemalingpa who belongs to Nyingma order. The festival is famous for a fire dance performed by the monks of the monastery, as well as purification rituals involving fire.
Thangbi Mani is held annually from 14th day of the eighth month of the Bhutanese calendar. The people from nearby villages of Thangbi, Goling and Kharsath have been organizing the annual festival since its inception. The Gomchens (lay monks) of this monastery perform rituals for the entire festival, while some young men and women perform mask and folk dances.
The order of activities may change as this is an event organized by small community. Generally speaking, the start of festival is marked by a ceremonial procession from the Temple to the Mewang (fire blessing), which is set up in an open area nearby. The Gomchens (the lay monks) perform purification rituals while all the people and guests jump over the flames to get themselves purified from their sins and evil deeds. It is believed that if one is able to jump over the flame three times he or she is protected from ill luck and misfortunes are removed for that entire year. Then mask dances and folk dances are performed as scheduled in the enclosed courtyard of the Thangbi Mani monastery. One of the unique mask dances of this place is the sacred dance of Goem Bernak (Black Mahakala) the male protecting deity. Another unique activity is that the men throw buckwheat dough balls on the spectators with screaming noise. This is to eliminate the harmful desires of the evil sprits and warding them off from the auspicious gathering. Another interesting age old tradition which is still practiced is the offering of Chang and Puta (buckwheat noodles) by the community girls to the guests. The girls offer Chang and noodles even to the strangers. If you get such treats whether you enjoy it or not, it is customary that you give some cash present to. The festival comes to an end by performing closing ritual where all the people of that community gather to receive blessings and pray for the wellbeing of all sentient beings for the year to come.
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