Clouds of burning juniper billowed from roadside shrines as monks in tall hats, carrying towering standards of brilliant rainbow brocade, led processions — followed by whirling dancers and prancing atsaras, the sacred and profane jesters of the monastic tradition, waving their huge wooden phalluses as they pranced, teased and joked, dancing to the sound of cymbals, horns and trumpets, deep droning chants and the constant beat of drums.
Like a great medieval family welcoming home a triumphant son, thousands of villagers lined the roads, hands folded. Children waved branches, women held out little baskets of rice, three eggs and three burning sticks of incense signifying prosperity, peace, and well-being; the men offered khatas, white ceremonial scarves as gifts of honor. Lamas held sacred scripture, mystics and astrologers carried tabernacles with holy relics and honor guards in ancient regalia surrounded the Crown Prince in his measured progression.
From BHUTAN: Hidden Lands of Happiness, by John Wehrheim (Serindia 2011)