…𝑨𝒔 𝑩𝒉𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒎𝒖𝒏𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒂𝒅𝒂𝒑𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒎𝒐𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒏 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆-𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒉𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒅𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒐𝒇 ‘𝑳𝒐𝒍𝒂𝒚’ 𝒇𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒔 𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒔, 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒖𝒏𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒅𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒄𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒏𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒇𝒆𝒍𝒕 𝒑𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒆𝒙𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒂𝒚𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒚 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒉𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒅𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒎𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒂𝒓𝒚 𝒔𝒐𝒄𝒊𝒆𝒕𝒚.
While festivities such as Diwali, Christmas, and Halloween prompt meticulous preparations well in advance, one may wonder if the same holds true for Lolay. Are the people equally prepared for this unique Bhutanese occasion? The cherished tradition of “Lolay,” a celebration involving the recitation of verses in prayers accompanied by the offering of abundant good wishes, is facing challenges as societal shifts have led to a decline in its reception. In the past, this festival enjoyed widespread celebration. However, in the present scenario, despite the numerous individuals who partake in the celebrations, there remains a minority who exhibit negligence and fail to reciprocate the gestures extended to them.
Winter Solstice or Nyilo is celebrated to welcome the New Year, especially by the people of Shar and Wang regions. According to Buddhist astrology, Nyilo is the day from which the duration of sunlight time increases, signifying the start of longer days until the Summer Solstice.
Lolay essentially entails the recitation of verses in prayers, accompanied by the offering of abundant good wishes. During this tradition, children in groups visit homes and shops to extend these heartfelt prayers and wishes for the new year. Unfortunately, over time, many individuals have become unprepared for this custom. Some are unsure about what to offer in return, and regrettably, others are even observed chasing away the children engaged in this endearing practice.
The once-warm reception is waning as many individuals find themselves unprepared for this customary exchange. Some residents admit uncertainty about what to offer in return, leading to awkward encounters. “I appreciate the sentiment behind ‘Lolay,’ but I’m often caught off guard. I don’t know what to provide, and it can be a bit uncomfortable,” remarks Sangay Lhamo, a local resident in Thimphu.
Tshering Tobgay from Haa said, “Similar to the age-old traditions of Nyilo among the Shah people and Chunipai Losar celebrated in the East, Lolay holds a special place. During our youth, typically teenagers below the age of eighteen would engage in the tradition of singing Lolay. These verses, constituting Lolay, are essentially prayers wishing prosperity, peace, and happiness for the families in the households they visit throughout the year.”
Regrettably, a more disheartening trend has emerged, with some individuals observed actively chasing away the children participating in this endearing practice. Such reactions raise concerns about the preservation of cultural traditions and the impact of changing attitudes within our community.
Ap Sangay recounted, “It was midday when I heard children singing the song ‘Lolay, Lolay.’ I found myself uncertain about how to respond, as it was the first time children had come to my house singing. Overcoming my initial embarrassment, I mustered the courage to go outside and inquire about their purpose. In a soft voice, one of the children said, ‘Uncle, we collect money and rice, and some people give us whatever they can.’ He added, “Returning inside, I prepared some rice and offered money. It dawned on me that we are not adequately prepared for our own cultural practices, which have been passed down from our grandparents. In contrast, we are often quick to embrace Western culture. A few minutes later, I heard a loud voice from upstairs scolding the kids for making too much noise. To my dismay, it was the house owner reprimanding the children. Witnessing our fellow Bhutanese being disheartened by such cultural traditions is truly disconcerting.”
Lopen Thukten Jamtsho of Zhung Dratshang explains, “The term ‘Lo’ signifies year, and ‘lay’ conveys goodness. In our belief, children are akin to precious gems and are revered as symbols of divinity. When these children visit each household to offer prayers, it is considered auspicious. This practice is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition, wherein the children gradually initiate praises. The prayers extend good wishes for prosperity and a fulfilling life throughout the year. The lyrics themselves are inherently positive and filled with well-wishing sentiments. Preserving our traditions is crucial, and embracing slight changes can be beneficial.
In the past, when children sang ‘Lolay,’ households offered a bowl of rice, Sikam (dry pork), Shakam (dry beef), and whatever provisions were available. Subsequently, the children would embark on a picnic the following day. However, in contemporary times, many individuals opt to offer monetary contributions.”
Traditional Lolay Recitation in the local dialect:-
Oka Nor Gi Gang Chuu—Lolay, Lolay!
Barkheb Ju Gi Gang Chuu—Lolay, Lolay!
Tengtho Mi Gi Gang Chuu—Lolay, Lolay!
Chimtho Dar Gi Gang Chuu—Lolay, Lolay!
In English, the verse translates roughly to:
May the ground floor be filled with cattle—good year!
And middle floor be filled with wealth—good year!
May the top floor be filled with people—good year!
And the rooftop be filled with flags—good year!
As our community embraces evolving customs, there is hopeful anticipation that the spirit of ‘Lolay’ and its intrinsic positivity will endure, weaving a thread that connects generations and nurtures a unified sense of identity amidst changing times.