Traditional Day of Offering: January 16
Traditional Day of Offering is a public holiday in Bhutan.
The Traditional Day of Offering is a time of thanks and offerings for the Bhutanese people, typically directed towards Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the famous unifier of kingdom and culture in Bhutan during the early seventeenth century. The day is locally known as buelwa phuewi nyim.
History of Traditional Day of Offering in Bhutan
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was born of Tibetan descent and was a part of the bloodline of Drogon Tsangpa Gyare, the originator of the Drukpa Lineage. Ngawang Namgyal was at first recognized as the heir apparent to the throne. However, deep-seated opposition parties sought to put another in the seat of the throne. After years of disagreement and treachery, Ngawang Namgyal fled Tibet, moving to Bhutan.
He founded the Buddhist Chagri Dorjeden Monastery in 1620 in the Thimphu Valley, and after three years of isolation and reflection, he set out to create the Drukpa Kagyu monastic order in Bhutan. From his Simtokha Dzong, he began the process of unifying Bhutan’s fractured and rivalrous fiefdoms. By the conclusion of 1634’s Battle of Five Lamas, Ngawang Namgyal had brought true unification to Bhutan.
Visitors and citizens alike found the man to be literate, compassionate, and considerate. His popularity rose with the creation of the unique dual government consisting of a spiritual leader looking over religious matters and a separate secularized administrative leader to handle governmental matters. This form of government still remains in a similar fashion.
It is said that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s death in 1651 was not reported to the people for many years, hidden by stories that he was running the country in seclusion. His body is now guarded in the sacred Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, and his work towards a better Bhutan is celebrated every year on the Traditional Day of Offering.
Bhutan’s Traditional Day of Offering Traditions, Customs and Activities
Government offices and institutions are closed on the Traditional Day of Offering.
The people wear their finest clothes. Traditional gho, a type of long robe with belt, are worn by men while women wear the traditional kira, a brightly covered woven dress. It’s very common to find Bhutanese participating in the country’s national sport of archery. Contests are frequently organized and often include government officials. Other sports like digor (a game of flat spherical stones that are thrown), darts, and dice are also played. The people often enjoy picnics or large feasts at home in celebration.
Donations and offerings are typically made to the Dratshang, one of many monastic institutes that exist in the country. Many associate these offerings with the love and loyalty felt towards Ngawang Namgyal.