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Trashiyangtse: Chorten Kora
Festival of Chorten Kora 2007
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Trashiyantse: Chorten Kora festival
Devotees from Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh joined their Bhutanese counterparts in the Namgang Kora, one of eastern Bhutan's oldest religious festivals which is held annually at the Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse.

The biggest religious event in the dzongkhag, the Namgang Kora (circumambulating the Chorten on the last day of the auspicious first month) was preceded by the Tse-Chenga Kora, a similar celebration on the 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar.

Lam Dorji of Rigsum Goenpa who organizes the festival said that the tradition of circumambulation began after the present chorten was built by Lam Ngawang Lotey, the nephew of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The physical structure of the chorten was copied from the Bodi Chorten in Nepal.

Once a deeply spiritual tradition, the event today has been commercialised and diluted, according to devotees. With hundreds of shops set up in huts and tents, Chorten Kora appears more like a bustling fair than a spiritual venue.
This year one of the main attractions at the festival has been the video parlours. About five video parlours run by diesel generators screen three to four of films a day. Food and game stalls, cloth show rooms, diverse wares both made locally and imported line the way to the Chorten.

Gyeltshen, 79, from Bumthang visited Chorten Kora after 12 years. He is astonished at the transformation.
"Those days we walked all the way via Kurtoe to attend the great kora," he said. "Today people are more attracted by business opportunities and entertainment.

Ngawang a Trashiyangtse shopkeeper, makes a profit of about Nu 15,000 a day. That is a far bigger earning compared with his usual business.

The festival of Chorten Kora 2007

There were fewer devotees both local as well as the visitors from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India attending the festival of Chorten Kora, popularly known as Namgang Kora, this year.

Not many are attending the Chorten Kora festival this year

"It could be because of distribution of devotees in and around the valley," said the principal of the institute for Zorig Chusum, Lam Kezang. "Most of the local devotees are attending the biggest and longest religious ceremony, Rinchen Terzoed Wanglung, which is being conducted by Lam Namkhai Nyingpo at Tshenkharla Zangdopelri lhakhang and some devotees had gone to Gomphu Kora to recite Badza Guru dungdrup which began on March 19."

The Namgang Kora festival at Chorten Kora concluded on March 19, 2007. Unlike other religious festivals, which have mask dance performances Chorten Kora is a festival to circumambulate the chorten.

Like Gomphu Kora festival, the Chorten Kora tshechu is also popular for its culture of nightlife which has evolved around the festival. But, according to the local people the tradition had deteriorated with the passage of time and the spiritual significance of the festival had been diluted by commercialism and rowdy youth.

The Namgang Kora festival (the 30th day of the auspicious first Bhutanese month) was preceded by the Tshe-Chenga Kora or the Dakpai Kora, a similar celebration on the 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calender.

The festival or the tradition of circumambulation began after the present stupa was built by Lam Ngawang Loday, nephew of the 13th Je Khenpo, His Holiness Yonten Thaye (1771-1775). Lama Ngawang wished to construct a replica of the Bodnath stupa of Nepal in Kholongchhu valley in memory of his late uncle Lam Jangchub Gyaltshen, the founder of Rigsum Goenpa monastery, and to subdue a demon dwelling at the site where the chorten was to be constructed.

The construction of Chorten took 12 years and was supported by the disciples of Lam Ngawang Loday and devotees from Trashiyangtse, Trashigang and Kurtoe valley, and also by people from the neighboring tribal communities of Tawang. His Holiness Yonten Thaye made his second visit to the valley and consecrated the chorten by offering mandala of Dechhog Paochigpa.

Another legend says that while the construction of chorten reached its dome, a girl of eight-years old believed to be an angel from Tawang came and volunteered to enter the dome and be buried. On account of this incident, the 15th day of the first Bhutanese month is called the Dakpe Kora (circumambulation by the Dakpas from Tawang) and the 30th day is called the Namgang Kora or the Drukpe Kora (circumambulation by the Bhutanese) festivals are held every year and hundreds of devotees from far and near converge at the Chorten Kora..

Contributed by Rinzin Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's national newspaper, 2007

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