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7th Moenlam Chenmo held at Punakha in Bhutan

Sangay Dorji presiding over the 7th Moenlam Chenmo. Image from BBS Facebook

Bhutan’s 7th Moenlam Chenmo, or the “Great Prayer Festival,” began on 20 January at the town (dzongkhag) of Punakha, which coincides with the 10th day of the 12th lunar month in the traditional Bhutanese calendar. It will be held for six days at Thangzona Choekhang from the 20th to the 25th.

The news was announced on Facebook and other social media platforms, with platforms like the Punakha Dzongkhag Administration and Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) announcing that thousands of devotees associated with Punakha’s monastic authorities, temples, and teaching centers, estimated at around 7,000, converged on the town in the peaceful Himalayan kingdom. Around 700 monks and nuns are in attendance and have been participating in the events held since the 20th, which includes the recitation of the King of Aspiration Prayer, which was recited over these past four days.  

Thangzona Choekhang. From Facebook

The Moenlam Chenmo is the Buddhist constitutional monarchy’s representative event that brings together “sangha and state.” It is performed for the wellbeing of sentient beings, as well as to dedicate merit and prayers to world peace. It is not only spiritually significant, but channels the energy of the Bhutanese people to usher in national unity and harmony and encourage peace around the world. Under the tenure of His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo, Tulku Jigme Chhoeda, the ceremony was established across the country in 20 districts, marking a landmark national development that has been celebrated as one of his most significant reforms.

Sangay Dorji, the Laytshog Lopen of the Central Monastic Body, is presiding over this annual event. BBS shared on its Facebook page: “. . . the Monlam Chenmo at Punakha began with His Eminence Rinpoche Sangay Dorji presiding over the opening ceremony. The Monlam Chenmo is a Great Prayer for World Peace that is held annually in Punakha and 20 other districts of Bhutan.”

From Facebook
Prayers and chanting by devotees go on into the night. From Facebook

As spiritual blogger and Sangay Dorji’s student Rebecca Wong reported about her teacher, “. . . he is the most senior master among the five top officials (lopon) of Bhutan’s Central Monastic Body, the Zhung Dratshang. A monk since the age of 11, he is in charge of all sangha-related activities, including administration and development. He is the chairman of the Dratshang Koedtshog, the Zhung Dratshang’s executive committee.” The fact that the previous ceremony from last year was presided over by the Je Khenpo,

Dara Yangchen, daughter of local Bhutanese teacher Lama Tshewang Dorji and member of a family of Buddhist teachers and ritual specialists, told Buddhistdoor Global: “This ceremony of the Moenlam Chenmo plays a very important role in our Bhutanese culture. The intention in performing it is to help us all to remove all negative energies and bless our people with virtue and merit by coming together. During this great ritual, we recite and dedicate the King of Aspiration Prayer to the welfare of all beings and, as a result, bring joy and peace to loved ones and strangers alike.”

Sangay Dorji presiding over the 7th Moenlam Chenmo. Image from BBS Facebook

Just as significantly, the 7th Moenlam Chenmo will be followed by a five-day Druk-Nang-Duechhey Rimdro from Friday. This ritual is performed once every 12 years in the Dragon Year to cleanse national obstacles and bring peace and harmony to Bhutan. As 2024 ushers in the dragon’s year in the Asian lunar calendar, it also marks the dragon year in Bhutan.

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Punakha Dzongkhag Administration Facebook
Laytshog Lopen announcement (Bhutan Broadcasting Service Facebook)

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