Blessed Rainy Day: the festival where Bhutanese bath outdoors together
The holy bath is believed to wash away bad luck, bad karma, diseases, sins, or any other negative influences.
Every autumn equinox, Bhutan observes Blessed Rainy Day, also known as Thrue Bab.
Each year, the holiday falls on a different date. The auspicious date is determined by astrologers by consulting the Bhutanese lunar calendar (which is also the Tibetan lunar calendar). In 2021, it is on 23 September.
The holiday marks the end of the monsoon and farming season and ushers in the harvest season.
Blessed Rainy Day is considered a holy day to the Buddhist.
The day is celebrated to thank the rain that fell during the monsoon and to pray for a bountiful harvest. In a way, it is the gateway to all the Bhutanese celebrations since it’s the first festival of the Bhutanese Calendar.
But the day holds more meaning than that. It is believed that on that day, all the water in the Himalayan Kingdom is infused with a special elixir, sprinkled from heaven by the Buddha.
The Legends Behind Blessed Rainy Day
Buddhists believe that in the beginning, the universe evolved as the sun, the moon, and the planet Rikhi formed alongside the other solar systems. The planet Rikhi is said to compose of water crystal jewels. Planet Rikhi is located at the halfway point of Mount Meru, which is believed to be the centre of the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universe.
Every year, there are six months of days and six months of nights on this planet as it circles around Mount Rirab Lhuenpo every year. Halfway up Mount Rirab Lhuenpo, there is a huge Buddha statue. The crown of the statue is made of the same material as the planet Rikhi. With each orbit, the planet Rikhi clashes with the crown. The planet takes seven days to cross the crown, during which pure and blessed rain falls from the crown and onto the planet.
In another story, there existed a Buddha called Dipenkara a long long time ago. After he passed away, the King of the Nagas (mythical serpent beings) erected a statue of him in an ocean to honour him. Upon completion of the construction, rain of immortality fell on the statue as an offering to the King of Devas (heavenly beings). Once every year, the rain would fall and cleanse the world, curing all medical conditions.
These legends informed Bhutanese culture. On this day, the water sources in Bhutan are believed to be sanctified and can eliminate bad luck, bad karma, diseases, defilements, sin, or other negative influences.
On the day before Blessed Rainy Day, people leave buckets of water out overnight to be sanctified.
The next day, families gather in the morning for a meal of thup (porridge).
After that, the Bhutanese take a bath together in the water outdoors.
The exact time for the bath had been calculated beforehand by the astrologers at the command of the Chief Abbot. Bathing at this exact time would allow one to reap maximum benefits. If unable to bathe at that precise hour, one is advised to rise before dawn for a quick bath.
It is festive. After the holy bath, everyone sits around a fire in a circle and enjoys a meal of local favourites like suja juice, thukpa noodle soup, and the delicacies served during a Losar festival.
Later, the people play traditional Bhutanese archery or khuru (Bhutanese darts).
Blessed Rainy Day was declared a public holiday in 1980. The holiday was removed in 2007 as part of a move to trim down the number of national holidays. Despite that, people usually took the day off to enjoy the festivities with their friends and family. The national holiday was reinstated in 2008 by the elected people’s assembly. Present-day, it is a public holiday, so all the schools, government offices, and businesses are closed that day.
Intrigued? Consider visiting Bhutan so you could also bathe in sanctified water to wash away any bad luck and channel blessings your way.