Friday, April 5, 2013

Annual Cleansing

Every house, every institution, every everything is supposed to have an annual cleansing ceremony to chase away the bad spirits, make the place pure, and safeguard the people, residents, employees, students, whomever for the year. These ceremonies are called Puja if they are for a house, somewhere along the way to a school they become Rimdro. Returning to the theme of homemade in Bhutan I will relate the events of Rimdro for our school. Thursday afternoon some classes are called off as the students are involved in preparing for Rimdro. All day Friday the whole student body and faculty are involved in preparation. Rimdro is Saturday from dawn ‘til dusk.
            Preparation involves making thousands of deep fried pieces of dough shaped like crowns, stars, braids, whatever the maker had in mind. This is 50 kids rolling out dough and shaping it and another 30 kids involved in taking the raw dough shapes and deep frying them over open fires behind the school kitchen. Everything is created from scratch just for this event. In the picture the large pile in front of the stage is composed primarily of these pastries. They will be distributed and eaten by the whole school over the next few days.
            Dawn Saturday finds a group of students with a couple of faculty for guidance working on the large prayer flag poles. These were taken down the week before, a large event in itself. The poles are single trees, about 50 feet tall, set in a hole about 3 feet deep with a rock/mud pedestal built around the base. New prayer flags and caps are put on the poles. The smaller poles have tops conprised of a disc and a decorative spear point up through the middle. All these are fashioned from logs the day before. The process of raising these takes 20-30 people and a fair amount of physical labor to get the pole established for the following year. All of this is accompanied by fires lit to burn all morning. The fires are fed with green branches, cedar in the stupas, which create a purifying smoke that will cleanse the whole area.
The monks have been assembled and are beginning a day of chanting which is often accompanied by instruments, drums, cymbals, a sort of clarinet, and giant trumpets reminiscent of Alp Horns. All this is blasted outside on overloaded speakers and is almost terrifying in the sounds produced.
            Part of the ceremony involves clay sculptures which are destroyed at the end as the evil of all the people is driven away. The clay for these is dug from a hillside that morning and beat with large sticks so that it will be a fine powder. Water is added and the clay sculptures are fashioned by hand.
            The day is spent in two long prayer sessions with the entire population of the school along with some guests. Breakfast, launch and dinner are served and we end the day with a faculty meeting to cover the upcoming week. It is amazing to see a whole day of ceremony with very little premade. Almost everything is created on site just for this day. The altar does have quite a pile of commercial whitebread and plastic bags of snacks, chips etc which all seems quite ironic to me.

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