Punakha Domchoe

Domchoes are large festivals held annually at dzongs. Powerful religious rites and dances attract large crowds. The Punakha Domchoe is held at Punakha Dzong on the start of the lunar year which is called Lhosar. Religious rites are held. Re-enactments of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s ruses used to defeat invading Tibetans intent on capturing the precious Rangjung Kharsapani Statue and returning it to Tibet. The image remains in Punakha Dzong. The three chapters of the Shabdrung’s battles are re-enacted with great pageantry featuring troupes of musicians playing horns and drums, and soldiers and cavalrymen dressed in ancient battledress. At the end of the domchoe the Serda is held. This procession of monks is led by the Je Khenpo who carries a casket to the river. The casket is immersed in the water along with some oranges in a symbolic re-enactment of the Shabdrung’s ruse. The Shabdrung pretended to throw the Rangjung Kharsapani into the river. The Tibetans fearing the image was lost forever withdrew and returned to Tibet. Enthusiastic locals brave the chilling waters to retrieve the oranges.