The Cham Lama Dance
A traditional Cham Lama dance is an event held by Tibetan monasteries during special Buddhist festivals.
Monks in colorful costumes wear masks and they dance to the music played from traditional instruments (such as the ritual drum), also performed by monks. The longer it goes on, the more they seem to get in a trance.
The dancers have to be both well-trained and strong as the ritual dance must be performed very precisely and the masks are very heavy.
Cham was introduced in the eight Century by Padmasambhava (who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet), to subjugate the local demons that were obstructing the building of the first monastery in Tibet, Samye.
Many of the figures performing the dance are animal characters. The two pictures above are made at the annual Buddhist Festival at Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, located in Trongsa (formerly Tongsa), in the centre of the country.
This five-day festival known as the Trongsa Tsechu is held in the courtyard of the temple every year in December or January. The festival celebrates the arrival of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) to Bhutan in the 8th century, a mark of triumph of Buddhism over evil.
By attending a Tsechu, visitors gain the Buddha’s blessing or / and experience spiritual release through the tantric deities.
Representative Cham Dance performances are:
- Skeleton Dance
- Deer Dance
- Black Hat Dance
- Old white Man from Mongolia
The old Tibetan pictures below show two figures known by the name of Citipati. This happy couple is also called the Lord and Lady of the Charnel Grounds and they are the principal Dharma protectors that are associated with the tantric systems of Vajrayogini.
“With the help of Cham, people can know the role of gods and devils, and understand the fruits of good and bad work.” – Abbot Konchok Namgyal
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