Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cham! Ritual Dances of Bhutan Pics (part 2)

Here's the follow up with a few more pics from Cham! Ritual Dances of Bhutan and descriptions about the significance and meaning of the dances from the flier. Keep in mind the pics posted here and in the last posting are of Tum Ngam, the first dance described below. (Scroll down to read the dance descriptions).

Descriptions of the two dances from the flier (note that at the bottom of the flier, it says "Dance descriptions adapted from the Bhutan Dance Access Database (C) Core of Culture, 2007"):

  • Tum Ngam (Dance of teh Terrifying Deities)
Tum Ngam is a demon-subjugation ritual. Tum means "wrathful" and ngam denotes a state of frenzy. During this ritual, any evil influences or spirits in teh area are forced out into the open and then tamed by the powerful deities of teh dance. Once surrounded, the malevolent spirits take shelter in a linga (a ritual effigy most often made of flour and butter) in the center of teh circle. There, trapped within a triangular vessel, the evil spirits are destroyed together with the linga by the phurba (sacred dagger) weilded by the champon (principal dagger).

The champon who leads the performance represents one of the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava, who is especially significant to the Bhutanese and is also known as "Precious Teacher." Dorje Drolo is a wrathful manifestation of Padmasambhava. According to legend, he assumed this form at Tagtsang (Tiger's Den), a cave on a cliff high above the Paro valley, after flying from Tiber on the back of a tigress. There, he fiercely subdued all the local gods and demons of the Himalayas and India, forcing them to pay allegiance to him and to become guardians and defenders of his teachings. In the Tum Ngam dance, the highly charged movements re-enact and recall Dorje Drolo's subjugation of all enemies who stand in the way of Buddhist teachings.

In Bhutanese tradition, it is highly auspicious to witness this dynamic dance. Ridding the area of malevolent influences, Dorje Drolo and his retinue of fierce deities dance to bring peace and harmony where disorder and discord had ruled. When taking their leave, they shower blessings upon the place.

  • Shanag Ngacham (Dance of the Black Hats with Drums)
Shanag Ngacham celebrates victory over the evil influences that oppose Buddhism. Sha means "hat," nag means "black," nga means "drum," and cham means "dance," This is one of a cycle of sacred dances known as teh Black Hat dance, which is performed with the intention of subjugating and destroying evil. It is also used to purify the ground before the construction and consecration of stupas, temples, and monastic fortresses. The powerful nature of teh dance is believed to frighten malevolent spirits away.

The colorful costumes of the Black Hat dance comprise large black hats covered in magical symbols (such as hexagrams, mirrors, and peacock feathers), rich silk-brocade gowns, adamntine collars, scarves, and boots. The costumes identify the dancers as poerful tantric devotees whose origins refer to the pre-Buddhist times.

There are different versions of the Black Hat dance, with the number of dancers ranging from five to more than twenty-one. The instruments and costumes also vary, depending upon the specific intention of each performance.

In the Shanag Ngacham version, each dancer holds a drum and a drumstick. In this dance, drums are considered celebratory instruments. The insistent rhythmic pulse drives the dance forward. "With diamond-like steps," the dancers draw an invisible mandala on the ground while the beat of the drums extends the celebratory message to all who hear it. For these reasons, the Shanag Ngacham is considered to be highly auspicious for all sentient creatures.

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