Each year, across the Tibetan Plateau, monks perform the ‘Torkya’ or Ritual Cake Throwing Ceremony, a ritual meant to cleanse the air of any malevolent forces bent on creating obstacles during the coming year. The means are not subtle; the ritual cake, a four feet high triangular shaped butter sculpture representing colored flames topped with a skull, is a bomb directed at harmful spirits.
In Ritoma, the ritual takes place towards the end of the year. The people assembled reflect on the obstacles that can harm their pastoral-based lives; illness in the family, drought, livestock diseases and many more. They wish for their removal and place their hopes in their monks to help them do so. They stand and watch as the monks donning their ceremonial garb file out of the monastery to the site of the burning. Present are the men representing the local clans, holding the clan arrows and dressed in white lambskin chubas. The master of the ceremony announces that all harmful forces are to be sent back to where they came from. As in the case of other wrathful rituals, he begins by meditating on compassion. His motivation is not meant to destroy the spirit itself, but the ignorance within it, stopping it both from harming others and itself by accumulating bad karma.
Straw is placed around the Torkya, and the ceremony culminates with the lighting of the fire and the throwing of firecrackers, for effect. No doubt a new addition.
In Lhasa, the ritual is performed at the end of the Monlam or Great Prayer Festival, after the new year.