Ritoma's Four Sacred Peaks

Across the valley from our house stands the highest peak in Ritoma, the Amney Tongra. Shaped in the hump of a crouching animal, it is the abode of a local deity whose name it bears. Our hill, at the bottom of which stands the workshop is known as the place where Amnye Tongra keeps his horses. It is said that he is very particular as to the character of those inhabiting what he considers his turf and that only those of pure intention, dedicated to the welfare of others will be allowed to remain there.

Amnye Tondra is one of four sacred peaks in Ritoma, the others being Amnye Northa, Amnye Huarga, and Amnye Danyi, the latter being the conical hill that stands out of its near perfect symmetry. Each of these are the abode of a local deity, recognized and revered for centuries before Buddhism was established in the region. Later, they were all endorsed by various lamas and absorbed into Buddhist practice.

When I began coming to Ritoma, I noticed the associations that people had with particular clans, which in turn held allegiance to one of the local deities. Amnye Tondra, Ritoma’s most important local deity and revered by all the clans, is associated with the largest, the Dzopa, which gathers more than one hundred families. During its Laptse, the ceremony during which clan members demonstrate their allegiance and seek the deitie’s protection by making offerings, clans from all over Zorge come to pay homage in a yearly celebration. The smaller clans have their own laptses, which take place mostly in summer.