Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

The Covid-19 pandemic forced residents of Tsakaling in Mongar to conduct their triennial festival, the Khandro Kongshag, differently this year.

The festival, which local residents believe wards off obstacles and misfortunes and bring prosperity and wellbeing, had to be postponed for a month.  With desuups and police stationed in the locality, residents could not witness mask dances.

Villagers said they had to watch the mask dances from afar, from fields and underneath trees.

The festival, usually conducted between the 25th and 30th of the 11th month of the Bhutanese calendar, had to be held after a month because of the lockdown.

Villagers go around every household in the locality after the Peling Lama Norbu Jamtsho ritual and Drakpoi Jinseg (a fire ritual).

The farthest village they go to is Takhambi, which initially took a seven-hour walk from Tsakaling lhakhang, but the farm road shortened the walk to two hours this year.

A group of about 30 people from Banjar village, who came for the festival, also went back this time.  In the past, about 2000 people gathered for the festival.

Sonam Chimi, 73, said he usually prayed and wished for wellbeing for three years, but this time he was not happy, as he barely had the time to offer nyendar.

Kaling-Thumling chiwog tshogpa, Sonam Lhaden, said, “Girls and boys spent the entire night circumambulating the temple throughout the festival and some would marry from here. But this culture is vanishing now.”

Meanwhile, people of Tsakaling are happy that they will soon get a new lhakhang.

The site engineer, Dorji Tshering, said construction began in December 2019 and the outer structure was now complete. “The internal part with the installation of relics is expected to take about three more years.”

A khenpo, Jigme Wangchuk, said a new temple will house Kagyed lhatshog from the terma of Pema Lingpa that’s called Kagyed thugki melong.  The goenpa has 35 monks and a teacher and nine hermits.

Tsakaling lhakhang was founded by Sazin Tenzin Dhendup, a son of Yonphu Choeje, in Trashigang in 1620.  Since then the practice of Peling tradition flourished unbroken in Tsakaling village.

Khenpo Jigme Wangchuk said Tsakaling gomdey is one of the places where the Peling tradition is alive and a source of unique and sacred Khandro Kongshag.

He said Khandro Kongshag was a confession prayer made to cleanse the defilements humans have accumulated. “It showers blessing, peace and prosperity.”