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All for Chunipa Losar

Traditional Day Of Offering: About twenty-four hours ago, Samzang was stir-frying rice, soaked in water, to make munang (zaw), at her home in Thragom in Kanglung, Trashigang.

Today, the fresh and crispy tea accompaniment will be served on altars, at breakfast and during tea time, as Samzang and her family celebrate the traditional day of offering, popularly known as Daw Chunipa Losar.

Breakfast will, as usual, consist of rice porridge, with chopped bones and cheese chunks, and suja.  Lunch and dinner usually have a variety of meat items served with rice.

The sleepy villages, taking a respite from summer farming activities, bustle with life at archery, khuru and doegor matches; the sound of singing and dancing in fields or at homes fill the air.

Preparations for chunipa losar begin at least three days before the festive day.

Samzang was one of the last to make munang.  Her husband, Karma, helped with the shopping for grocery, meat and alcohol. “Unlike before, we don’t brew much alcohol, because many have reduced drinking,” he said. “And we keep beer instead of ara.”

By nine today, Samzang and Karma’s family, like their neighbours, will start preparing lunch.

“Starting today, we indulge in three days of festivity, with good food, games, singing and dancing,” Karma said.

“It’s for once we forget everything and concentrate on having a good time with family, friends and relatives,” Ugyen Tshewang, a student, said.

In preparation, yesterday, outside Samzang’s house, in the undulating terraces, a group of children practised archery for the losar. They have a match today against children from Manthung village.

“Before the arrival of our opponents, we have to fix and decorate the archery range,” Ugyen Tshewang said.

The following day, the young archers will be heading to Manthung to continue the match. “Right after breakfast we’ll be out for the match,” Karma Dorji, another player said.

The winner collects a prize of Nu 1,800.

Women in the villages have their own activities mapped out too.

“We have decided to play doegor,” a woman from Thragom, Pema Zangmo, said. “Towards evening, we’ll take some tshogchang (alcohol) to archers.”

About the day 

The Traditional Day of Offering has been celebrated as Losar (New Year) since Zhabdrung’s days.

It was on this day that representatives from all the regions of Bhutan offered buelwa (offerings) to Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century at the Punakha dzong.  The offerings were made to express love, devotion and loyalty. Hence the day has been observed as buelwa phuewi nyim or traditional day of offering.

The penlops of Trongsa, Paro and Dagana led the people of Sharcho khorlo tsipgye (the eight eastern domains, including Trongsa, Bumthang, Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Pemagatshel, and Samdrupjongkhar), Mangde tsho zhi (the four regions of Trongsa), Bumthang dey zhi (the four regions of Bumthang), Khengrig nam sum (the three regions of Zhemgang), Daga la gong sum (the three mountain passes of Daga) and Wang tshochen-gey (eight great clans of the Wang area, comprising the present-day dzongkhags of Thimphu, Wangdi and Punakha), and made offering to Zhabdrung in Punakha, when he first observed the day as the new-year of the country.

The chunipa losar, in the past, was celebrated for 15 days, and gave way to the great Punakha Dromchoe, a ceremony introduced to honour the two deities, Pal-Yeshay Goenpo and Palden Lhamo for their role in protecting the country from Tibetan invasions.

It is during chunipa losar that new kudrungs (discipline masters) and lopons are appointed in dzongs.

The chunipa losar was removed from the list of national holidays in the 1960s, but the late Kidu Lyonpo (home minister), Tamzhing Jagar, reinstated it, on the request of the late Semtokha principal, Lam Norbu Wangchuk.

A month after the chunipa losar comes the daw dangpai losar or the new-year on the Bhutanese calendar.  The new-year is also called the Gyalpoi losar.  This is not by royal decree, but the losar is also a day to commemorate the conquest by a Mongolian King Gyalpo Tenzin Chhogyal, popularly known as Bushkhang, over Russian provinces, east Tibet, and other local provinces.


By Tempa Wangdi 

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