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Lochoe, an annual ritual

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

Lochoe is an annual family ritual and religious ceremony that takes place in Bhutan. It is a time for families to come together and make offerings to their national and regional territorial protector deities. The host family also holds a festive gathering, during which they feed the neighbors and anyone passing by, making it a social event for celebration in the community.

In the past, Lochoe was a major undertaking for families. They would start preparing for it at the beginning of the year, raising a pig to be slaughtered for the occasion. Today, vegetarianism is on the rise in Bhutan, and the monastic body prohibits the serving of meat during Lochoe. In places where meat is still served, pig head meat (phangu) is a specialty.

A few weeks before the event, the woman of the house makes a variety of foods and drinks, including ara (an alcohol distilled from fermented wheat), seap (pounded maize), zaw (roasted rice), and tsog (biscuits). She also stores butter, which will be used in tea and to light butter lamps.

Lama & Monk Performing Lochoe

The day before the Lochoe, torma sculptures – made of rice and butter – are created to represent the protector deities that the family worships. These sculptures are placed on the altar, with tsog offerings in front of them. Thousands of butter lamps are also lit.

On the day of the Lochoe, a lama and a group of monks come to the host family's house to perform the rituals. Depending on the number of protector deities, the tantric ritual can last from dawn until late in the evening. Mantras are chanted throughout the day to make amends for any wrongdoing, to offer gratitude for blessings, and to request enhanced wealth and longevity.

Altar with Torma Offering

In the past, meat was a rarity and was served as a specialty during Lochoe. However, as vegetarianism has become more popular, the serving of meat has been discouraged. In its place, other specialties such as ja thup (gnocchi pasta with gravy and minced beef), daisee (sweetened butter rice), droem (sweetened milk with peas), and chugo ma ngo (cottage cheese in heated butter and melted sugar) are served. The day ends with yangchang, a drink made of heated ara with egg, served to everyone in prayers for the continuation of prosperity.

Lochoe is an opportunity for the family and community to come together and celebrate the agricultural harvest. It is also a time for religious devotion, as people make offerings and seek blessings from their protector deities. Whether it is the making of torma sculptures, the chanting of mantras, or the sharing of food and drink, Lochoe is a time for Bhutanese families to come together and reaffirm their cultural and spiritual traditions.

In conclusion, Lochoe is a unique and important aspect of Bhutanese culture and spirituality. It is a time for families to come together, make offerings to their protector deities, and celebrate the agricultural harvest. It is also an opportunity to reaffirm cultural and spiritual traditions and to connect with the community. Whether you are participating in the rituals or simply enjoying the festive atmosphere, Lochoe is an experience not to be missed.

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