People’s mixed reactions during Saga Dawa

Saga Dawa, observed on the 15th Day of the 4th Lunar Month, carries a great importance for Buddhists worldwide. Bhutan observes the auspicious month by prohibiting the sale of meat, even though meat curries are allowed to be served in restaurants, and canned meats are okay to be sold. The butcher shops are closed during the month, and restaurants run low on supply of fresh meat to cook.

One of the restaurant owners, Singye, said, “For us, every time is the same because we make sure to have stored meat available to serve customers according to their preferences,”

The restaurant owners acknowledge the positive aspect of abstaining from meat to save animal lives, but they find it difficult to explain such traditional beliefs to tourists.

“We sell, like we normally do,” Singye added.

They expressed concern that not having meat in stock could potentially hinder their business, as it may discourage people from coming to their restaurants.

Likewise, 32-year-old, Karma Dorji, said, “I know Saga Dawa in Bhutan is observed for a good reason. However, the unavailability of meat during this time does not make sense to me. I have seen many Bhutanese who store dried meat during this time of the year.”

“I feel people tend to consume or store more meat during this time of year due to its scarcity,” he added.

In the midst of the mixed reactions of the people, Karma Tamang, originally from Samtse, Tendruk, runs a butcher shop in Babesa. Having been in the business for a decade, he believes that events like Saga Dawa have no impact on his trade.

He said, “Before Saga Dawa, people purchase all types of meat, in anticipation of the shortage during the holy month, which allows me to sell all the meat stock. However, keeping meat in the refrigerator or freezer for an extended period degrades its quality. Nevertheless, I ensure that I tailor the amount of meat to the preferences of the customer purchasing it.”

Meanwhile, a monk from Wangdue Phodrang, Tshering Wangchuk, said that the first month of the Bhutanese calendar is not Saga Dawa, but it is instead referred to as Chothrul Dawa. The fourth month is recognized as Saga Dawa, while the last month, the seventh, is known as Shakhay Dawa.

He said, “During that time, lying and killing can be bad. In order to be blessed, we need to be kind and think positively.”

He said that one will accrue sin by consuming meat during the holy month, according to the religious beliefs.

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