Preu Chö: Bhutan’s Anniversary of Guru Rinpoché

Preu Chö is one of the oldest festivals of central Bhutan. Both the Preu Chö and another festival, Trelda Tshechu, are when Bhutanese celebrate the anniversary of Guru Rinpoché, the eighth century Indian master credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan and the Himalayas. Preu Chö, means the offering (chöpa; མཆོད་པ་) of the monkey month (preu dawa, སྤྲེའུ་ཟླ་བ་), wherein preu is a local Bhutanese pronunciation for the classical term treu (སྤྲེའུ་). Trelda refers to the Monkey month (སྤྲེལ་ཟླ་), the month of the traditional Bhutanese lunar calendar in which Guru Rinpoché is believed to have been born on the tenth day.

However, different calendar calculations assign the Monkey sign to different months, causing the Monkey month to be identified as the third Bhutanese month by some, fourth by others, and even fifth or sixth months by others still. This causes Preu Chö to be celebrated in the third or fourth months and Trelda observed in the fifth or sixth months, depending on the community. No matter which month the celebration takes place, it is always on the tenth day (ཚེས་བཅུ་), when Guru is believed to have been born and when he carried out many enlightened activities.

To Bhutanese, Guru Rinpoché is not merely 'a precious teacher' and historical figure who brought Buddhism to Bhutan but he is a quintessential divinity. From the first prayers mumbled by toddlers to grand state festivals, from fleeting dreams of hermits to formidable public monuments, Guru Rinpoché forms a key locus of Bhutanese spirituality and religious culture. Bhutanese pray to him for health, wealth, long life, safety, beneficial rebirth, success in business, war, exams and virtually in all affairs of life. Above all, he is considered by locals to be the unsurpassed guide to enlightenment for the people who reside in hidden lands such as Bhutan. He is considered the spiritual father or patron saint of Bhutan and the Bhutanese see their world as imbued with Guru Rinpoché's presence and blessings.

On the day of Preu Chö, Guru Rinpoché is believed to visit all shrines and homes. Thus, in the Bumthang, Kurtoe and Kheng regions of Bhutan, people clean their houses in preparation of Guru Rinpoché's visit. Men collect whichever flowers are blooming in the forest at the time to offer them to Guru Rinpoché. The women sweep every nook and cranny of the family home and prepare offerings of food. Because Guru Rinpoché is said to approach in numerous emanations through any opening using the miraculous power of his enlightened mind, people clean their homes, filling each of its entrances and crevices with incense and flowers.

Guru Rinpoché is believed to arrive riding the rays of the morning sun, and thus offerings of local cookies, vegetables and fruits are laid out in the morning. In some places, additional special dishes are made and special songs are sung.

The Preu Chö and Trelda are special occasions for practitioners, and to believers provide an opportunity to be in the awareness of Guru Rinpoché and to remember the inner values of non-violence, compassion, wisdom and enlightenment that Guru Rinpoché so thoroughly embodies.

 

Karma Phuntsho is the Director of Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research, the President of the Loden Foundation and the author of The History of Bhutan. The piece was initially published in Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel as part of a series called “Why We Do What We Do.”

 

Bhutan Cultural Library Traditional Festivals Bhutan

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Collection Bhutan Cultural Library
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Karma Phuntsho
Editor Ariana Maki
Year published 2017
Original year published 2016
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