October 14, 2022
As autumn rolls in with yellowing and darkening skies, Ritoma’s pastoralists prepare for winter. Yak and sheep, which had been grazing at higher altitudes, come down and settle in the winter pasture, closer to the central village and the monastery. Each year, the time is marked by a blessing ritual meant to protect the animals over the winter. Men representing the village clans ride their horses to the monastery where they borrow a complete set of the Kangyur, 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings. They tie two to three each to their backs and ride off to circle the winter pastures, a 20 kilometer radius, that includes the sacred Amney Tongra, the mountain where the area's protector dwells. In doing this they bid both the forces of Buddhism and the local gods to protect them and their animals over the harsh months ahead. The circumambulation complete, they return to the monastery, tying their horses at the entrance, and solemnly march in, the volumes still tied to their backs to deliver them back. Winter life can now begin.