Now I know (or am closer to knowing) why Saturday is “Sunday” in Bhutan!

Now I know (or am closer to knowing) why Saturday is “Sunday” in Bhutan!

Bhuchung K. Tsering

Some time back I wrote about the tradition of names of days in Bhutan and how they differed from us the Tibetans. I was somewhat in the dark about why the Bhutanese tradition called Saturday as Nyima(ཉི་མ་), which is the term that we use for Sunday.

Just today the issue came up again in twitter discussions that I have had with Twitter friends, one from Bhutan and the other a scholar on Bhutan and Tibet (I am not using their names here as I have not sought their permission to do so, but you are welcome to look at my twitter @bhuchungtsering timeline to follow the discussion).   The scholar enlightened me that the current Bhutanese calendar tradition was established by a monk scholar Lhawang Lodoe (ལྷ་དབང་བློ་གྲོས་).

I followed that lead and indeed that seems to be so. Lhawang Lodoe lived in Tibet in the 16th century and was an expert in the sciences of knowledge, including astrology, particularly the Kalachakra tradition. In 1586 he is said to have composed a treaties on astrology. Subsequently, he went from Tibet to Bhutan becoming a tutor to Zhabdrung Rinpoche. In his History of Bhutan, Karma Phuntsho while not giving the reasons behind the changes, says (on pages 222-223), “Zhabdrung also requested his master Lhawang Lodoe to compose astrological commentaries based on the interpretations of the famous Pema Karpo. Lhawang Lodoe’s writings on astrology later became the main source for the unique Bhutanese calendrical system, of which one distinct feature is the calculation of a day twenty-four hours earlier than in other systems. So, it is Monday associated with the moon in Bhutan while it is Sunday int the rest of the world.”

A possible reasoning is provided by an individual (the name is not clear from the website) who maintains www.kalacakra.org, who says, “I have been told that it comes from interpretations of the Kālacakra Tantra and its calendar by the great Kālacakra expert Buton Rinchen Drup (bu ston rin chen grub), as passed through the Drukpa tradition by Pema Karpo (padma dkar po).”

The author contends that the answer might lie in the Kalachakra Tantra itself saying some parts of the text’s translations, as found in Tibetan, are not clear. The author concludes, “Maybe the original reasoning for this out-of-step weekday will turn up in some text that is currently not available. It is tempting to speculate what the reason might be; but this is a temptation I shall resist…”

So we are closer to a solution, but the jury is still out on this. How about continuing this discussion next Saturday, or “Sunday” by Bhutanese reckoning!

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