Clash or Confluence?

Vishwakarma Puja may have originated in India, but the people of Bhutan also participate in this celebration.

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar | November 2023

Vishwakarma Puja, also known as Vishwakarma Jayanti, has been a cherished religious and cultural tradition in India. The festival’s significance varies from region to region. Interestingly, Bhutan, a neighboring country, also joins in this tradition, sparking an ongoing debate about its origins and whether it originated from India or Bhutan.

Vishwakarma Puja has been mentioned in Indian writings and scriptures for centuries, appearing in such ancient texts as the Rigveda, one of the earliest known Hindu scriptures. In Hindu mythology, Vishwakarma is respected as the celestial designer of the universe.

Despite Bhutan’s proximity to India, the country maintains its unique religious and cultural traditions. The dominant religion in Bhutan is Vajrayana Buddhism, which is deeply entwined with the daily lives of its citizens.

Vishwakarma Puja, however, is typically celebrated in September or October, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. Its primary purpose is to honor Lord Vishwakarma and seek his blessings for success in life. In India, this festival holds special significance for those engaged in professions related to architecture, engineering, blacksmithing, and other skilled vocations. Artisans, artisans, and laborers come together to worship Lord Vishwakarma, performing rituals that include the cleaning and blessing of tools and machinery, decorating workplaces, and offering prayers.

In various Indian states, notably West Bengal, Assam, and parts of North India, Vishwakarma Puja commences with colorful processions, gatherings across neighborhoods, and artistic competitions. Workers take the day off to participate in these celebrations.

Bhutan, situated in the eastern Himalayas, has a distinctive religious and cultural fabric that sets it apart from India. While geographic proximity may suggest similarities in their cultural and social dimensions, Bhutan’s dominant religion is Vajrayana Buddhism, which profoundly influences the lives of its people.

Though Vishwakarma Puja originates in India, Bhutanese culture may have adopted this concept of seeking divine blessings. However, one of Bhutan’s renowned religious festivals is Tshechu, commemorating the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, the Indian Buddhist master who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. During Tshechu, Bhutanese people perform masked dances and prayers and engage in rituals, offering a unique and culturally rich experience. This emphasizes the profound influence of Buddhism on Bhutan’s traditions.

Bhutan’s Buddhism draws influence from various schools and sects, including the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions. The Bhutanese monarchy plays a pivotal role in preserving and promoting Buddhism as an integral part of the country’s identity.

The customs and rituals associated with Vishwakarma Puja, such as the consecration of tools and machinery, are unique to this festival, reflecting the importance of craftsmanship and engineering in Indian culture. In contrast, Bhutanese cultural practices revolve around Buddhist ceremonies, prayer flags, and the unique architecture of dzongs and monasteries.

Vishwakarma Puja is a significant religious and cultural tradition in India, deeply rooted in Hinduism and dedicated to Lord Vishwakarma. With its predominant Buddhist faith and spiritual practices, Bhutan does not share this festival with India. Still, it may celebrate the concept as part of its reverence for higher divine powers. While India and Bhutan may be close neighbors, the differences in their religious practices and festivals highlight the complexity and diversity of the region.