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The Tsenmar Wang in Bumthang
Bumthang
Getting blessed in Bhutan generally constitutes receiving a light tap on the head. However in Tamzhing lhakhang, Bumthang, it is slightly different; blessings are bestowed by getting hit across the back with two leather sacks, stuffed with hay and sacred relics (zungs).

It is known as the Tsenmar blessing and is given on the last day of the Tamzhing phala Choedpa.

Two monks, wearing mask dance robes, carry the pillow-sized leather sacks and hit the backs of devotees. One monk hits from the right and the other from the left as devotees move in single file to receiving the blessings.

During the Tamzhing Phala Choedpa mainly girls and children took the blessing. A few lost balance and fell to the ground from the impact of the blessing.

A devotee being blessed

The blessing is known as Pakpa (leather bag) Wang. The leather bag weighs around three kilogrammes and contains spiritually blessed holy relics, which are usually kept in the goenkhang (inner chapel of the lhakhang).

It is said the blessing drives away and protects one from evil spirits and influences.

A teacher of the Tamzhing monastic school said that the zungs date back to more than 400 years but the leather bags are changed every now and then because of wear and tear.

According to the Lopen Yonten Norbu, the Tsenmar Wang is conducted only at Tamzhing Lhakhang, one of the residences of Terton (treasure discoverer) Pema Lingpa.

He said that Tsenmar is one of the important Choesungs (Dharmapala) of Pemalingpa and the Tsenmar Cham followed by the Tsenmar Wang were important traditions of the Pemalingpa households.

Tamzhing lhakhang was built during the 15th century by Pemalingpa.

Contributed by Nima Wangdi, Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2006
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