It is autumn in Pin Valley The pea harvest is complete. And the earnings for the year are collected. Fuel in the form of dry dung And fodder in the form of dried grass is then collected from the mountains And stocked up for surviving the upcoming winter. Most of the major chores for the year are completed By the end of September. It is then time to relax a bit. Before the onset of winter. It is time for weddings and pujas. Time for Sunchok. Sunchok is a type of prayer we perform to ensure the long life of a person. Sunchok is being conducted for over 100 years. Sunchok happens only in Pin Valley. It is compulsory for everyone to conduct Sunchok in their lifetime. Sunchok is a significant event. In a person’s life. Each & every Sunchok event in Pin Valley is conducted only after getting permission and dates from the Kungri Monastery. It is our custom to go to the Head Lama for permission. For instance, If I want to conduct Sunchok in October, Then I’ll go to him July. Carrying a bottle of Ara (liquor) as gift. And tell him about my plans for conducting Sunchok for my son, wife etc. We go to him every time we conduct Sunchok for a family member. And get an auspicious date for the prayer. Sunchok is a grand, expensive prayer. With close to a 100 monks performing the ceremony. And hundreds or even thousands of guests attending. Important relatives come from outside Pin Valley, from places such as Kaza, Dhankar, Mane etc. Everyone from within Pin Valley will attend. At least one person from each family (in Pin Valley) would attend. People sometimes used to save money for years in order to conduct Sunchok for one of their family members. People get good income from the Pea Crop these days. So conducting Sunchok is no longer a difficult proposition. So the number of Sunchoks have increased drastically. Our Lama finds it difficult to give dates to everyone. A grand event like Sunchok Requires a lot of planning and preparation. Alcohol is a big part of Sunchok. The barley based Ara is brewed at home Weeks in advance before the ceremony. The family conducing Sunchok has to brew good liquor. Upto 30 litres. In addition, All their relatives would bring 5 litres each. This favour will be reciprocated whenever the relatives conduct Sunchok in their homes. It is all a matter of give and take. Only the relatives are required to bring Ara. Other guests will just come and eat a little bit And give some money to the hosts before leaving. The preparations for Sunchok Start in earnest a few days before the ceremony. Friends and neighbours Come and help the host with their preparations. The most significant preparation for Sunchok has to be the making of the flatbread rotis. It is customary for the host to give a few rotis to every one who attends the event. So over a thousand of these rotis are baked at home with help from friends and family. Me: How many rotis have you made till now? She: Counting todays’s preparation, we would have made over 1100 rotis. I would have an approximate idea of how many rotis to make for people attending my Sunchok. It is compulsory to give rotis to the entire village. Sagnam (his village) has a population of about 400-500 people. And we have to give rotis to all of them. Then we estimate how many people would come from outside the village. I would know whether 100, 200 or 300 people would come from outside. It all depends on how many relatives a person has. If someone has a lot of relatives. then he might have to make between 1700 to 1800 rotis (like in Sagnam). Before would give 5 rotis to each member in a family. Our Rinpoche (head Lama) objected to this a few years back. He told us that we are wasting a lot of rotis. Throwing them out to cows etc. There is a lot of wastage. So he asked us to reduce the wastage a bit. Now we have reduced them amount to 3 rotis each. If a family has 10 members then we would give them (10×3) 30 rotis. Various ritual offerings In the form of Tormas and Butter Sculptures. Are prepared by the Lamas A day before the main puja. All the Lamas from the Kungri Monastery are invited. And anywhere between 50 to 100 of them.. Would show up to conduct the ceremony, On the date fixed by their Rinpoche. Around 120 lamas would come to the Sunchok earlier. Now the number has reduced to around 90 as the lamas have dispersed here and there. Some have gone to Rewalsar, Some have gone for their meditations etc. The puja starts after the lamas have their morning Thukpa (breakfast). The lamas recite various prayers.. Dedicated towards the long life and prosperity of the person For whom the Sunchok is being conducted. While the lamas are busy with the puja. The hosts are also busy preparing food and drinks For the lamas and the guests. Thousands of Momos And hundreds of litres of tea Are prepared during the course of the day. The chanting reaches its crescendo by late afternoon When the recipient of the prayer is brought out To do prostrations in front of the altar. The lamas are then paid by the host For helping them to perform the ceremony. Earlier people used to pay ₹400 – 500 based on their personal capacity. Some rich person might even pay ₹600 to the Lamas. Sometimes upto ₹700. People then started complaining that the amount is too high. Regular people were finding it difficult to conduct Sunchok. So these days we have fixed ₹400 as the amount. We will give ₹400 to each Lama. The senior lamas are paid a bit higher at around ₹1000 or more. The prayer would conclude at around 4 to 5pm. The lamas are then paid and then dropped off at their homes. The guests start arriving soon after the lamas leave. The guests are given the same food that was fed to the lamas earlier in the day. Some guests leave after eating, while others stay back for the evening party. Usually the closer relatives stay back for the dance. Other guests would leave after dinner. They would give some money to the hosts and take their share of rotis before leaving. The evening Sunchok party Is what the villagers, especially the young people Look forward to the most. Traditional musicians are brought in from outside Pin Valley And at great cost. It is their responsibility To keep the party going. And keep the energy levels up Late into the night. The guests dance in batches during the party. And during every such dance People in the audience would go up to the dancers And give a 10 Rupee note to each and every one of them. This money is then collected And given to the host of the Sunchok To help them with the financial burdens of Hosting such a large ceremony. We help each other out financially while conducting Sunchok. If Nawang gives ₹300 in my Sunchok then I would give ₹350 in his Sunchok. This is another beautiful example Of the camaraderie between the people of Pin Valley. Helping each other out Physically, Emotionally and even Financially Whenever an opportunity presents itself.