Gomphu Kora Festival
A long time ago, when evil was rampant in the world, carrying out of any moral and religious works were always interrupted by evil forces. During that time, Guru Rinpoche, a great tantric Buddhist master held the reputation of subduing the demons and vanquishing them.
In one occasion in Tibet, in the 8th century, when the Samye monastery was being built, whatever was built during the day was destroyed by evil forces at night. Desperate and frustrated over the progress of the work, the lamas of Tibet, requested Guru Rinpoche to help subdue the demons so the construction of the monastery could happen.
The Guru who was in Nepal went to Tibet and subdued the demons making it possible for the completion of the Samye monastery. During that time, one evil spirit known by the name Dikparaza or Myongkha escaped the guru’s torture and fled to Bhutan and reached the present day Gomphu Kora.
The guru is said to have followed the demon. He meditated for three months above Gomphukora in a place called Kapilaphu. Then he approached the demon and meditated for three more days near a huge black rock where Dikparaza had taken refuge. Immediately he vanquished the demon and constructed a small chorten (Stupa) at the site.
Today, every year, in the second month of the lunar calendar, thousands of people from across the country and some from neighboring Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh gather at Gomphu Kora, which is located at a distance of 23 kilometers above Trashigang.
Gomphu translates to meditation cave and Kora translates to circumambulation.
People observe the day with festivals and mask dances to mark an important occasion in human history when good triumphed over evil.
The festival was first initiated by the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye in the 16th century.
The riverbank near the monastery is dotted with several of Guru’s remains. The remains include guru Rinpoche’s footprints, hat, his chair and many of his personal belongings. There is also a dark shiny rock which is said to be the demon’s skin.
The monastery which stand today in Gomphukora was later built in the 9th century by Ani Choten Zangmo, a reincarnation of one Peling lama.
The guru is said to have blessed the site with infinite prayers and virtues. Those visiting the site today are believed to gain indefinite merit.
Clad in their best dresses, devotees gather at Gomphu Kora and circumambulate the monastery chanting the omnipotent mantra of Guru Rinpoche. During the three-day festival, the otherwise desolate landscape comes alive with people from all walks of life.
It was also considered an occasion for people to choose their spouse during the circumambulation. The festival also draws people from the neighboring Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Dakpa tribe from Tawang will be seen among the crowd wearing their unique hand woven thick orange coats and black hats with fringes. It takes days of travel on foot for the Dakpas and they are said to have been partaking in the festivals for over a thousand years.
One of the major attractions of the festival is the circumambulation of the monastery where devotees chant the guru’s mantra. On the other side, devotees will also be entertained with songs and mask dances.