"Leaps Of Faith"

Classical dances in Bhutan are reflected in the religious mask pageants and ritual dances. The religious dances are symbolic and have a common theme to destroy or trample the evil spirits. It is believed that witnessing the masked dances will better prepare people to handle the unknown, which they will encounter after death. Watching all the frightening creatures and masks will prepare them for the possible likelihood of encountering terrifying demons, that their minds, which were recently released from the confinement of the body, can conjure up. 

©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
                                               They wears mask which represent animals and fearsome deities
The Black Hat dance is a spectacular dance performed during Tsechus (religious festivals), in which dancers representing Buddhist masters with supernatural powers drive out evil spirits and purify the ground with their footsteps. This dance has a double meaning: it celebrates the assassination of the Tibetan King Langdarma in 842 A.D. by a Buddhist monk wearing a black robe. The monk had hidden the bow and arrows in the folds of his long sleeves. 
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
 
                                                        The main attraction of tsechu are the Cham dances
My guide Kinga took me to her brother-in-law`s house where they put on different costumes and allowed me to photograph them.
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
                                                 They take great pride at showing how high they can leap
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
We left the Prakhar Festival  in the Chumey valley early. The cobbled courtyard of the Dzong was surrounded with people, and it was hard to find a place to sit or even to stand, to view the dances. We returned to the second day of the Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival to watch the various ritual dances.
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved
 
Because tsechus depend on the availability of masked dancers, registered dancers are subject to a fine if they refuse to perform during festivals. I had inquired with Kinga if she could arrange with one of the dancers to be photographed away from the festival crowds. She contacted her brother-in-law again and he said he could arrange something with one of the younger monks. We waited for over four hours to allow him to finish his obligations. We met at a side entrance and he put two masks plus outfits in his monk`s robe and tied them into a bundle. We drove for about ten minutes and stopped at an area that had "mani stones" and prayer flags.
 
 
©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

                                   My guide Kinga Pem helps 19 year-old Jambay Dorji with his  snow lion mask

©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved ©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

 

©Kieron Nelson "Vanishing Cultures Photography" All rights reserved

 

Leaping sengyeLeaping sengyeThe mask he is wearing has a ferocious gesture and is worn during the festival to imitate the snow lion, representing both real and mythical animals. In the Bhutanese tradition and custom, the sengye or snow lion is considered one of the four supernatural animal guardians of the four directions.

       Leaping Sengye or Snow Lion


Comments

1.Priya Balan(non-registered)
This is beautiful...I loved the architecture and also the knowledge of black hat Dance.. it is really interesting you got a dancer to show the leap. It is most wonderful!!!
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