Bhutanese - Religion and Expressive Culture

The dominant religious cult in Bhutan is that of the Red-Hat sect (Kargyupa), a Tibetan lamaistic order of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan shamanism in the form of Bon, a more ancient religious tradition, is also practised. Only among the Nepalese immigrants does one find Hinduism, or a combination of that tradition with Tibetan lamaism, being followed. The idea of ablution has diffused here from India. The inherent idea is that purification of the body leads to the purification of the mind as well. The Bon practice salutation, circumambulation, and offering of water; devotions are part of the Buddhist mode of worship in Bhutan. The offering of Sacrifices is accompanied by ritual dances and dramatic representations. The special dance sequences known as acham , where trained and inspired actors impersonate gods and goblins, wearing appropriate masks and mimicking mystery actions, are essentially frameworks for offering the torma (see below). These dances are described by some Western scholars as "devil dances," because the chief purposes of these performances are to exorcise evil spirits and secure blessings or, allegorically speaking, to drive out bad luck and usher in the good year and good luck. Whenever a domestic or public rite of greater importance is to be performed, lamas expert in ritual are called to prepare the altar and appropriate accessories and to conduct the elaborate worship. An indispensable part of all such ritual performances is the torma, figures made of dough and butter, shaped to symbolize deities and spirits and presented to the deities invoked.

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