Answered by Dorjee Dhundup, aged 49, in charge of inventory at Norlha Atelier on the Tibetan Plateau. Dorjee has been with Norlha since 2007.
What is Laptse?
Lapse is a festival where men from all the clans in Ritoma gather to honor the local deities. Riding their horses, dressed in their best and bearing their family arrows, they set out with a mind laden with compassion, praying for all sentient beings, from the most enlightened to the smallest animals. They pledge their allegiance to the local deities, appealing for their guidance and their blessings for good fortune.
How do you celebrate Laptse?
We gather at dawn, saddle our horses, their saddle bags filled with fragrant incense, and ride for an hour to reach the top of Ritoma’s highest peak, the Amnye Tongra. Shaped like a crouching tiger, it dominates the area, and is known as the abode of the deity whose name it bears. When all the men from the village have assembled, we light the pyre and offer barley, yogurt and sugar, then continue to two other, smaller laptses where we make similar offerings. On the return journey, we stop at Ritoma’s most sacred spring to pay homage to the water deities that dwell there.
What role does nature play?
Nature and people are interdependent. Humans cannot survive without nature and we honor it by paying homage to our mountains and water sources, asking the deities residing there to help us open our minds to good intentions and deeds that will help restore harmony.
What are some of the traditions and rituals that take place?
The laptse held on the 11th on the second month of the lunar calendar, is different from the others. We go to the sacred mountain behind the Monastery with the monks who pray and make offerings. There, we liberate an animal, meaning we preserve its life, marking it with a ribbon. This year, I donated the animal, which we call a Tsethar, meaning ‘Life that has been spared’. It is my attempt at negating the negative karma I accumulated as a nomad, having to kill for my livelihood over many years. I pledge to take good care of this animal until it dies of natural causes at a ripe old age, making sure it is well fed and protected from wolves.
Dorjee Dhundup's Tsethar yak, who's life has been spared.