Why Ritual effigies get pinned with brooches

A week-long Jana Chidey Kurim, for the peace and prosperity of the country and the well being of all sentient beings, is an annual religious ritual conducted at Pangrizampa College of Astrology in Thimphu. The annual Kurim was presided over by the former Dorji Lopen Sangay Dorji with over more than 180 monks earlier this year.

It is believed that attending the annual religious ritual, Kurim, ensures that a person does not have to do rituals for one’s wellbeing for the whole year.  The vice principal of the college, Sonam Rinchen, said the Kurim is also conducted to appease the local deities in order to ensure swift constancy in the four elements of nature (earth, water, fire and wind).

Meanwhile, the devotees are also seen pinning their brooches and safety pins on the attire of the effigies, despite repeatedly being notified not to do so. “Many people are of the belief that pinning brooches on statue attires will help lengthen their lifespan,” said Sonam Rinchen.

Common belief has it that the pin or brooch represents one’s life force in a Buddhist context. As per the year of birth of the individual, a pin or brooch is to be pinned on the birth animal’s effigy attire momentarily and then taken back and kept as So-Khab (life pin) for longevity. VP Sonam Rinchen said such a practice has been happening since the inception of Buddhism in the country.

“It’s hard to convince people that the pin should be taken back for one’s own longevity after it is momentarily pinned on the attire of the statue,” he added that the pinning practice for longevity is not done during a Kurim instead it is done during Tsheku Laa Luu, a ritual conducted at an individual’s house or temple for their long life and to cure an illness suffered by a person.

The VP said the brooches are unpinned from the statues on a daily basis after prayers for the day ends. He said the collection of pins weighs nearly a kilogram every day.  “Despite several prior notifications, it remains next to impossible for us to convey the same to the crowd of thousands of devotees attending daily from different places.”

Meanwhile, one of the devotees, 48-year-old Aum Wangmo said, “It is believed that pinning a brooch will take away the individual’s future misfortune with the effigies, and will reward us with good health and prosperity.” She said her late mother had handed down the belief to her.

Another devotee, 36-year-old Pedon said that the pins represent the soul of an individual where pinning it on one’s birth animal is same as sending their misfortunes with the effigies which will be discarded. “Just like the two sides of the pin holds each other tightly, our soul will also be protected in a same manner if we pin on our birth animal and on the attire of our King and Queen.”

The Kurim prayers started from 6 am and lasts till 6pm. People are seen queuing up as early as 3 am. After the close of the prayers on 15 April, the effigies were taken to the direction as prescribed by the astrologer, facing one of the four directions on a plain land near the river bank.

“We ensured that no aquatic animals and sentient beings are harmed due to anything. So we take back all the materials that could harm the aquatic animals, especially the metal objects and pins,” said the VP.

He said the objects remaining to be immersed in water are just the statues made of flour, and clothes which are immediately taken by devotees who make a rush for them.

By Tshering Delma

The writer is a reporter with the paper

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