Phala Choepa and Boar Dance at Tamzhing Temple

The blessing given on the last day of Tamzhing festival, which is known as Phala Choepa (ཕག་ལྷ་མཆོད་པ) or offering to the boar-god. The blessing called Ugay Wang (ཨུ་རྒས་དབང་), which is also popularly known as the pakpa wang or leather bag blessing in Bumthang language is given at the festival. The leather bag was believed to contain auspicious relics, which were used to subdue demons by local deity called Tserma in the eight century.


Ugay wang is believed to be a blessing equivalent to all other blessings, which started when the Phala Choepa was founded in the 15th century by Terton Rigzin Pema Lingpa, after the construction of Tamzhing lhakhang in 1506. People believe that, with the Ugay wang, their negative actions will be cleaned and, if hit hard, they would be cured of body aches. This blessing is given only during Tamzhing Phala Choepa festival and is one of the unique events in Bumthang. The festival is held from the 10th day of the eight Bhutanese lunar months until the 13th day.


The most significance mask dance is the Phag cham (ཕག་འཆམ) or the Boar Dance, in which the dancers perform wearing masks of boar. It is said that Phag cham was composed in the 15th century. At that time, Terton Rigzin Pema Lingpa was looking for a suitable place to build a monastery. It is said that, Terton Rigdzin Pema Lingpa had a vision, where Yidam Dorji Phagmo (ཡི་དམ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཕག་མོ) or Vajravarahi, the board headed deity performed the dance and told him that he should learn this dance and perform it during the consecration ceremony of the temple.  Pema Lingpa remembered the steps of the dance even after he woke up from the visionary dream. He wrote down the steps and made his followers learn the dance. To mark this auspicious occasion, Terton Rigdzin Pema Lingpa introduced the Boar Dance as the first one in the series of mask dances performed during the consecration ceremony of the monastery.


This sacred dance later came to be known as Phagcham. The foundation of the Tamzhing lhakhang is also said to have been dug by a boar, which is why the Phala Choepa festival was named. It is said that the pig borrowed deep into the soil and unearthed for the construction of temple. The performance of the boar or pig dance continues to this day at the annual Tamzhing Phala Choepa (Tamzhing festival of the Boar or Pig) held in the 8th lunar month. It is performed to ward off evil spirits, to please higher beings and spirits, and to bring everlasting peace and happiness to the people on earth.


The other unique mask dances were Peling ging sum, which include Juging dance of the ging with sticks, Driging dance of the ging with swords and Ngaging dance of the ging with drums. The dances are said to have originated from Pema Lingpa’s vision of Guru Rinpoche and Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal demonstrating the steps. Tshangpai ging dance of the king of the gods is another unique dance, which is said to have been demonstrated by five gods in Terton Rigdzin Pema Lingpa’s vision. On the night of the last day, another blessing called the mewang (མེ་དབང་) or fire blessing is conducted. It was held to appease the deity and pray for successful consecutive year of tshechu. With the auspicious fires burning on two sides, people believe that if they pass through the fire thrice, their negative actions, bad luck and evils will be burnt.


Sonam Chophel is a researcher at Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research.



Collection Bhutan Cultural Library
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Sonam Chophel
Year published 2018
Language English
UID mandala-texts-51116
Creative Commons Licence