Chu Ngi Pai Losar is a New Year observed on 1st day of the 12th month of Bhutanese calendar. It is also sometimes called a Sharchogpai Losar, the Losar of Easterners or people of eastern Bhutan. Of two New Year celebrated in a calendar year in Bhutan, one is celebrated as mentioned earlier and other is celebrated on 1st day of 1st month known as Dangpa Losar. The Chu Ngi Pai Losar is not celebrated by many of the people of western Bhutan while Dangpai is celebrated throughout Bhutan. Above all, Tibetan communities throughout the world celebrate Dangpai Losar for a week(s) which is why it also got the name Boepai Losar.
On these days, relatives tried to meet and feast together. They don’t argue and quarrel because they believe that they will have to fight for one whole year. In eastern Bhutan, I believed that Chu Ngi Pai Losar is celebrated as end of harvest which means end of the season’s work while Dangpai Losar is a beginning for another working year in village.
As a child, I used to wake up as early as elders because it was only time where we got to eat rice, meat, fried cheese and eggs. While elders would be busy preparing thukpa, wine and dishes, the children would sit around fireplace warming and scratching our heads. Elders would refrain as much as they could from hitting and scolding us but when we filled so much space interfering into their works, few boxes on ears and few slaps across the face were given.
The day would usually begin with strong ara warmed with fried eggs after a proper propitiation to various deities. Then came the Thukpa or porridge mixed with stewed pieces of bones. After that as early as 7 a.m, the meal would be served. I remember that meals were not eaten just like any other days. It involved quite a process of propitiation. Of all, the most elaborate would be in my step-father’s home. Firstly, offering to altar in a clean bow with all items invoking names of Triple Gem because Ken Chog Sum was considered supreme and enlightened. Then, it would be offered to house god in a fig or banana leave represented by twig of pine tree above the door. In regular houses, these two offerings would be followed by distribution and serving among family members but in my step-father’s house, innumerable offerings were made. To name a few, offerings were made to various Tsen or mountain deities, deities of three major temples of the gewog, deity of the pass, deity of nearby hill, deity of land which family own and even hungry spirit of malicious black magician killed by villagers a generation ago. By the end of offerings, children would be tired from carrying various offerings to various directions and even half of meals was prepared would exhausted in offerings. Unlike other days, whether you can eat or not, your share of everything will be kept separate so that you can eat later.
After early meal, some male members would go to play archery match, khuru match and Doegor match. During my childhood, card gambling had too gained popularity though the bet was only cheap chocolate pieces. Female members and elders would pack dishes and ara to visit relatives and friends. By the evening, women would bring Tshogchang at the end of archery match. The winners, losers and women will dance in the archery range till late night. Sadly such practice is fast disappearing in village. Nowdays, men play more to win money just like gambling while in olden days it was for fun and get together. The Choenda, archery match competed between two villages used to be fun. First day, one village would host the match and another day, other village would host the match. Women would try to outdo the hospitality of other village.
Such culture served as platform to know each other, take respite for unending mundane works and also to eat and wear best. But how such culture came into being? It was believed that there was a poor Moringmo or single mother who had nothing to eat or drink. She had to suffer throughout the year to get two square meals. She only could eat nutritious food one day in a year. Thus the culture began. Due to this culture, the lady was born in hell for sins of this culture because many animals (both wild and domestic) are slaughtered and many eggs are cracked open to celebrate this day.
But these days, nobody care about slaughter of animals. Nobody cared about sins we are accumulating. In the village, they cared about get-together and respite from yearlong works. In the town especially among employees, the off-day they are given is cherished. Even in the cities, people go to eat with family, meet friends and some older people even make solutions while new generations do in Christian New Year.
Officially it was considered as the traditional day of offering since the time of Zhabdrung. The regional officials made offering to him at Punakha. It is also during this day, new discipline masters are appointed in Dratshang.
Like many other people, my family planned to celebrate losar at Paro with one of their relatives. I am asked to them which I don’t want to. I have yet to find excuse to turn down because I have catching up to do with few friends who are placed in various districts. I have khuru to play, the first official tournament of my life, with friends.