Vishwakarma Puja: A Shared Tradition of Fervour and Devotion with India

The past two nights in Bhutan’s capital city and its surrounding areas have been nothing short of a symphony of noise and fervor. To the outsider’s ear, the cacophonous sounds of Bollywood music blaring through the night might seem like an unruly disturbance. However, for the people of Bhutan, it’s a time-honored tradition—a celebration of Vishwakarma Puja.

Vishwakarma Puja is not an ancient Bhutanese tradition, but it has made its mark in the country’s cultural canvas, particularly in factories, industrial areas, and construction sites. The day is dedicated to honoring Lord Vishwakarma, the Hindu god revered as the divine architect of the universe. While the celebrations are marked by noisy revelry, they also highlight a shared tradition between Bhutan and India.

Unlike many other festivals that embrace serenity and solemnity, Vishwakarma Puja can get raucous if not downright noisy. It’s become customary for thekadars (construction site supervisors) and their enthusiastic workers to blast loud music, transforming these sites into impromptu dance floors. The deafening beats and melodies have become synonymous with the festivities in Bhutan.

In the spirit of competition or perhaps to draw in a dancing crowd, these construction crews show little restraint when it comes to the volume of their music. It’s an unwritten rule that few dare to challenge, not even the authorities. On this special occasion, even the most peace-loving Bhutanese tend to overlook the noise pollution, accepting it as a part of the tradition.

However, as urban living evolves and expectations shift, the cacophony has begun to wear thin on the patience of many. Recently, a concerned father called the police when the booming amplifiers at a construction site near his home in Semtokha became unbearable. The music was so deafening that it could be heard as far as Sangaygang.

Bhutan and its people are known for their tolerance, often turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to various cultural or traditional practices, no matter how bothersome they may be. Yet, the way of life is changing, and noise pollution has become a pressing concern, especially in urban settings.

Vishwakarma Puja, although not originally a Bhutanese tradition, has been embraced and tolerated for its annual occurrence. However, the recent surge in noise pollution threatens to overshadow the spirit of the celebration. One can’t help but wonder if Lord Vishwakarma, the divine creator, ever envisioned his devotees causing inconvenience to others or disturbing the peace in his name.

Recognizing the environmental impact of these celebrations, authorities have taken steps to curb pollution by banning the disposal of plastic, chemicals, and other pollutants into rivers during the Puja. Although there were initial objections, clarifications helped people understand that not polluting the rivers is a more meaningful way of showing appreciation to the lord.

Noise pollution, on the other hand, remains a challenge. It’s a problem that can be mitigated. It’s entirely possible to make Vishwakarma Puja a remarkable and joyous occasion without causing distress to others. After all, Lord Vishwakarma’s teachings likely didn’t advocate for excessive drinking, dancing, disturbing others, or causing trouble in his name.

In Bhutan, there is an alternative celebration known as Zorig Day, held in the spring. This day serves as the Bhutanese equivalent of Vishwakarma Puja, but it is celebrated with solemnity, free from noise or pollution. Many individuals have started gravitating toward Zorig Day as a quieter, more respectful way of honoring artisans, craftsmen, mechanics, and industrial workers. The underlying purpose remains the same—to pray for safe working conditions and success in their respective fields.

Vishwakarma Puja has found a unique place in Bhutan’s cultural landscape, offering a glimpse into the shared traditions between Bhutan and India. While the celebration’s exuberance is appreciated, it’s essential to strike a balance between devotion and consideration for others. By doing so, we can ensure that Vishwakarma Puja continues to be a vibrant and meaningful festival, resonating with the spirit of Lord Vishwakarma’s teachings.

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