Hol­i­days and cal­en­dars

Business Bhutan - - Views Perspectives -

DORJI WANGCHUK To­day is cel­e­brated as an­other lo­cal new year al­though as per the lu­nar cal­en­dar it is the 12th month of Year of Rooster. Some may be won­der­ing why we have so many new years in Bhutan. Since an­cient times dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties around the world, eth­nic groups, re­li­gions and na­tions have dif­fer­ent times to cel­e­brate a new cy­cle in life. Some fol­lowed the Sun (like the Egyp­tians) and some the Moon (Chi­nese), while oth­ers both (In­dian). They also had dif­fer­ent days to ob­serve as hol­i­days (de­rived from the words, holy days) to con­duct re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties. In Shar­chop com­mu­ni­ties, for ex­am­ple, there used to be a day for rest known as saa nyan (earth rest) – when the farm­ers give the soil some rest. By the way, isn’t this beau­ti­ful? As com­mu­ni­ties came to­gether as na­tions and states, the cal­en­dar sys­tem was in­tro­duced to bring ev­ery­one to syn­chro­nize their lives so that they can all work to­gether. There­fore, the cal­en­dar is more po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive in na­ture. How­ever, it in­cluded the re­li­gious holy days and rest days to al­low peo­ple to take some time off for them­selves. While the cal­en­dar sys­tems have been sub­jected to po­lit­i­cal changes, the re­li­gious hol­i­days have re­mained con­stant. And since so­cial be­liefs and re­li­gion run deeper, com­mu­ni­ties con­tinue to prac­tice them. This is the rea­son you will find dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties in Bhutan cel­e­brat­ing the start of a new cy­cle (new year) at dif­fer­ent times of the year. These cul­tural prac­tices pre­date the for­ma­tion of Bhutan as a na­tion-state in the 17th cen­tury. This is what makes Bhutan di­verse and beau­ti­ful. And when we say that we have been suc­cess­ful in main­tain­ing our cul­ture and tra­di­tions, we are talk­ing of re­tain­ing such prac­tices. Fur­ther­more, since Losar means new year and new cy­cle, the term, Chu­nipa Losar, is tech­ni­cally and lin­guis­ti­cally wrong. It is more ap­pro­pri­ate to say Shar­chop Losar as in Parop Lomba. Chuni is 12. No new cy­cle be­gins at 12. It be­gins at 1. This day also co­in­cides with the first day of the new moon ac­cord­ing the older Gongdu cal­en­dar. So it is not a ran­dom or mod­ern in­ven­tion. The Ti­betan tra­di­tion of cel­e­brat­ing the new year on the sec­ond Moon was in­tro­duced af­ter the Mon­gols over­run them and im­posed the Hor cal­en­dar. I would guess that they fol­lowed this day as the losar be­fore that event. Of greater his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance for Bhutan is that as Zhab­drung Ngawang Nam­gyel formed the na­tion of Pelden Drukpa, in around 1637, this day be­came the day when re­gional gov­er­nors and noble fam­i­lies from around Bhutan made the buelwa phuelwa (day of of­fer­ing). The day was marked with great fes­tiv­ity in Pu­nakha where dif­fer­ent goods and foods from dif­fer­ent re­gions of Bhutan were shared and cel­e­brated. Some might ar­gue that the “of­fer­ing” was ac­tu­ally the an­nual tax – which is right. How­ever, Zhab­drung Ngawang Nam­gyel didn’t be­lieve in tax­ing the peo­ple and rather de­clared that the state should be so good that the peo­ple would of­fer taxes as of­fer­ings to main­tain the cen­tral ad­min­is­tra­tion, which they did. Bhutan, as the na­tion of founded on such ideals, could view this day be­yond its tra­di­tional sig­nif­i­cance of lo­cal new year – and as a day of na­tional im­por­tance, where we come to­gether to cel­e­brate our el­ders and our an­ces­tors. It could also evolve like as a Thanks­giv­ing to our lead­ers of past and present who have fought and gave us a sov­er­eign na­tion – and a pride to be called sons and daugh­ters of Pelden Drukpa. The writer is an ar­dent blog­ger and blogs at https://dorji-wangchuk.com.

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