What is a torma?

Tor literally means to “scatter” or “throw” a small number of things or pieces.  The suffix ma means “mother” and implies compassion. A torma is an offering traditionally tossed outside after use in a ritual, both to symbolize impermanence and to develop the practice of generosity. But a torma is not only a ritual offering; it can function in a variety of other ways, for instance, as a physical representation of either the wisdom or activity aspect of a deity.

Filming at Benchen Monastery in Nepal

In February 2010, the Torma film crew met at Benchen Monastery in Swayambhu, Nepal and filmed an interview with Venerable Tenga Rinpoche, the Dorje Lopon (Vajra Master) of the Karma Kagyu Lineage. We also documented monks working on the tormas for the elaborate Mahakala protector rituals and dances held annually before Losar.

Here are some photos of a Mahakala torma that represents the activity aspect of the protector:

Monk sculpts image out of dough.

Monk applies black paint to the face.

Pink, white, red, and yellow colors are added.

The head is adorned with a crown of skulls.

This torma in the shape of a head (left) represents the activity aspect of the protector deity.

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