Nyungne - A Fascinating Winter Ritual

“Winters can get real desolate here and nyungne is the only festival that makes the place lively,” he said. “It was so good to see everyone together this year.”

The nyungne is an effective practice for purifying negativities and accumulating merit. (Source: http://www.kuenselonline.com)


The dusty farm road cutting the slopes and hills between Bemji village and Doksephey lhakhang in Trongsa is too small for Thuji.

The 73-year-old man is returning from the monastery, perched on a gentle slope overlooking the Mangdechu meandering through the valley, after attending a nyungne, a fasting ritual.

The nyungne as an effective practice for purifying negativities and accumulating merit

As a lay monk, he knows that nyungne is an effective practice for purifying negativities and accumulating merit, especially when it is held in a goenpa, which he considers sacred as the main relic, a seven ft. tall Buddha Shakyamuni is a replica of the Jowo in Lhasa.

He said he attends the event every winter but the village elder had more reasons to look forward to this year.

Unlike the past years, where people from a nearby dzongkhag came to sponsor the ritual, the non-resident people of Pang and Bemji, who he is familiar with, sponsored the ritual this year.

While the non-residents of the two villages contributed money to buy rations and pay cash prizes and wages, the villagers contributed what was available from the farms and labour.

“Winters can get real desolate here and nyungne is the only festival that makes the place lively,” he said. “It was so good to see everyone together this year.”

Thuji said that unlike the past years, when people returned home after attending the tsechu held on the fourth day, everyone stayed back in the monastery, reviving the old tradition.

Dophu, 69, also echoed similar views.

The father of seven said it drew many elderly people of the two villages of Pang and Bemji to the monastery to pray, prostrate and conduct fasting this time. “There are 39 of us this time. Usually, only 10 to 15 people turn up.”



Local residents take a day off to celebrate nyungne

The ritual formally takes two and half days but it has a preparation day, where the elderly people, sponsors and ritual conductors gather. The fourth and fifth days see a celebratory conclusion where all the local residents take a day off from their usual chores and gather in the monastery.

Another village elder, Gem Thinley, said that it was good to see the monks of the two villages performing masked dances on the fourth day, as it provides an opportunity for village elders to watch it. “This is a new system but a good one.”

He said that many aged people cannot make it to Trongsa, which is about 23kms away from the village to watch the Trongsa tshechu and the mask dances would entertain and educate them.

Masked dances performed during the nyungne

The eldest resident of the two villages, Pem Wangmo, 94, said she never thought she could watch mask dances during the nyungne. “I am too old to travel anywhere.”

The single woman, who raised her granddaughter and her children, by working as the monastery caretaker until a few years ago said she had seen many people coming to sponsor the nyungne, as the Jowo is believed to be a wish-fulfiller.

“This year’s nyungne was different, as it had dance components,” she said. “My six-year-old grandson took an active part by helping to clean the butter lamp bowls and cleaning the monastery.”

Students and women performed dances during the day and men and boys continued throughout the night. “I have seen some men dance so well,” Tshering Yangdon, 17, said.

She said she remembers how she looked forward to the nyungne every year as a child because it was the only occasion that brought everyone in the locality together. “I wish to grow up continuing to look forward to this occasion.”

People were served food, beverages and alcohol, which was locally brewed.

Meanwhile, Thuji walked about 3kms from the monastery with the ritual cake on the final day, as locals believe that it cannot be take ferried in motor vehicles.

“This is our tradition and if few people make the habit to carry it, others might continue,” he said.

As the dancers and people bring the cake, housewives gather in the Bemji nagtsang to prepare the reception with tea, food and marchang.

Drinking tea and alcohol to his glory, Thuji offered ‘nyendar’ to the ritual cake, prayed for all the sentient beings and peace and prosperity in the country.

He also gave Nu 10 each to the 10 dancers and 20 to the main host.


By Tashi Dema (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared in Kuensel.



Related Posts

Pray to Conceive at the Chimi Lhakhang

For couples who longed to have children, miracles were said to have happened after they have received fertility...

Nov 08, 2017 08:44

Dochula Tschechu – Truly Captivating!

What makes the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival unique is that while the mask dances performed elsewhere in Bhutan are...

Nov 24, 2017 05:19

Thimphu Tschechu 2017 - A Visual Feast

Tschechu, meaning ‘tenth day’ also corresponds to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). This festival is a...

Oct 06, 2017 18:29

The Black-Necked Crane Festival

The arrival of the black-neck cranes signals the coming of winter and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the...

Nov 01, 2017 13:54

Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan (Eco-Tourism): 54 Hours where...

The eventful weekend saw 130 keen people in attendance, of which 56 pitched ideas. This was the fifth time that such an...

Nov 29, 2017 08:46

Bhutan Government Waives Off USD 65 a Day for Tourists

The move is expected to promote tourism in the eastern part of the country

Dec 11, 2017 09:33



Bhutan Observes International Day of Happiness

The International Day of Happiness was first observed on March 20, 2013 after the United Nations General Assembly selected the particular...

Mar 21, 2018 22:45

Commemorative bank notes featuring Bhutan's Crown Prince to be sold in Singapore

One million pieces are available worldwide and Singapore will have a "limited allocation".

Mar 20, 2018 17:10


A Malady Called Rural-Urban Migration

Yonten Tharchen went home to Nganglam after 19 years and returned to Thimphu completely bewildered and devastated at how whole villages are...

Mar 23, 2018 23:16

Bhutanese Journal of Agriculture Launched

The journal is published by the Agriculture Research and Extension Division of the Department of Agriculture and will be now an annual...

Mar 18, 2018 22:31


Bhutan out of ASEAN Women’s T20 Open Tournament

Bhutan had the chance of finishing among the top three teams with a total of three points after playing four matches. At the finals,...

Mar 14, 2018 17:22

National Cricket Team Wins First International Title

The National cricket team defeated Thailand by three runs in the finals to win the championship. A total of four countries China, Bhutan,...

Mar 02, 2018 18:14


Top Five Business Ideas Bag Grants at National Start-up Weekend

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said during the prize awarding ceremony that although the government has been promoting entrepreneurship,...

Mar 20, 2018 22:53

Bhutan National Start-Up Weekend Begins

The MoIC Minister DN Dhungyel said that there is a need to change the expectations of youth who thinks that the government is the main...

Mar 17, 2018 12:05


Nyungne - A Fascinating Winter Ritual

“Winters can get real desolate here and nyungne is the only festival that makes the place lively,” he said. “It was so good to see everyone...

Mar 10, 2018 21:25

Pilgrimage to Beyul Langdra - The Hidden Treasure of the Bull Cliff

It is believed that Guru Rinpoche had hidden more than 60 sacred treasures in and around the cliff to be discovered by prophesied treasure...

Feb 24, 2018 13:16


Paday’s Bistro

The menu is quite varied, ranging from continental dishes including pasta and steak to more ‘Asian style’ food such as a variation of the...

Mar 22, 2018 21:01

Schools and Institutes Use Composting to Reduce Landfill Waste

Developed by Koji Takakura, a Japanese national, the composting method has been introduced to more than 60 countries.

Mar 19, 2018 21:54

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!