By Kshitiz Siwakoti, Sindhupalchok, Mar. 1: The Hyolmo community celebrated their most important annual Tscehu Puja on the 27 and 28th of February in Helambu of Sindhupalchok. The Hyolmo community is one of the 59 indigenous nationalities listed under the Nepal Gazette.
According to the Buddhist Lunar Calendar, the festival is celebrated after a month from Sonam Lohsar which marks a new year in the calendar. Tscehu festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Rimpoche or Padmasambhava. Guru Rimpoche has been credited with introducing Tantric Buddhism to Tibet and establishing the first Buddhist monastery there.
It is believed that Guru Rimpoche meditated in the pristine caves of Helambu and had hidden his religious scriptures and items there.
According to Bhavu Lama, the Lama priest behind this year’s Tsechu Puja, the celebration of the festival is done to expel the evil thoughts and intentions that lurk within human beings.
“The puja is conducted to remove evil ghosts and evil thoughts that we or the village may possess,” he said.
It has been said that the imagery of this is seen with a figure of Guru Rimpoche’s arms wrapped around his body made from millet dough. This is symbolic of a demon who takes the facade of Padmasambhava taking away all things evil from the village and its people which is later consumed by the flames of the bonfire.
According to Dawa Lama, a member of organising committee of this year’s Tsechu Puja and a local resident, there are around 70 homes in and around the villages surrounding Sermathang in Helambu. Every two homes in rotation take turn to organise the festival.
“My home had this opportunity to organise the Tsechu Puja after 30 years. It is an honour for us to organise the festival because the Lamas especially go to the organiser’s home and bless it from evil ghosts,” Lama said.
Every home in the village contributes either food or other resources for the festival.
The Puja is conducted by the Lamas reading the Hyum scriptures (religious books) for five days after which the celebration of the Tsechu festival begins. The festival is celebrated by lighting a bonfire around which the Lama priests sing and dance.
This is followed by the Hyolmo villagers divided into females and males who sing and dance arm in arm around the bonfire in unison. The song is an auspicious one that is only meant to be sung during the Tsechu festival. This singing continues to the night and the atmosphere is that of contagious merriment.
The locally brewed liquor made of millet and locals favourite salty tea made by mixing butter, milk, and salt only add to the festive delight.
The song is meant to make people healthy and rid of them any evil ghosts. “When we sing the Tsechu song we are asking to be healthy and lead a long and a pure life,” Dawa Lama added.