Men From Dagana, Bhutan Practise Masked Dances For The Lhamoizingkha Festival


Twenty eight men, who are farmers from the three gewogs of Lhamoizingkha are practising mask dances for the upcoming annual tshechu (festival) of Lhamoizingkha.

A masked dance performed during tshechus (festivals) in Bhutan. (Source: Zicasso)


By Rajesh Rai Kuensel

It was a pleasant morning in Lhamoizingkha, Dagana. At the courtyard of Peldenchholing lhakhang, men watched as Sharman Subba fine-tuned his steps.

At his trainer’s cue, the 36-year-old man from Omchhu village of Karmaling gewog, rotated his neck several times.

He failed and nearly fell to the ground. His friends burst out in laughter.


Photo: Map of Bhutan


Sharman Subba is not alone. Twenty eight men, who are farmers from the three gewogs of Lhamoizingkha are practising mask dances for the upcoming annual tshechu (festival) of Lhamoizingkha.

“I am practising for two dances this time,” Sharman Subba said, adding that he likes performing the dances.

Dancers and their role in preserving Bhutanese traditions

“It is our country’s traditional mask dance and an opportunity for us to learn and promote it.”

Other than the mask dances, Sharman is also a member of the Chipdrel ceremony team. A Chipdrel is a traditional Bhutanese ceremony where the bride and groom are escorted by monks and masked dancers to the temple for their wedding.

Moreover, Sharman will also be participating for the third time and contributing to the Drungkhag tshechu.

Another farmer, Dilliram Adhikari, 35, from the Damchuna village of Nichula gewog said that mask dances signify age-old Bhutanese tradition and people should know about it.

A class seven graduate from Daragaon village in Lhamoizingkha gewog, Maniraj Khati, 21, is another dancer taking part this year.


Photo: Kuensel


He said that although some steps are difficult, he is determined to learn it.

Maniraj runs a meat shop when he is not dancing. “If local people don’t continue to learn mask dances, people would never learn.”

Although local men would be performing the mask dances, the Drungkhag also hires trainers from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) prior to the festival to guide these dancers.

Kezang Norbu, 29, has come to the locality this time. He said that they started the training from January 4 this year. The trainer said that with more practice, he could synchronize the dancers for a team.

“They are trained and they are quick learners. They are good.”

Meanwhile, the mask dancers said that they would be able to save some money from what they earn daily during their practice if they could get meals provided.

When they break for lunch, some who live nearby go home to eat, while others brought packed meals with them. A few dancers go to the nearby canteen to eat on credit and some dancers from Karmaling stay with their relatives and friends in Lhamoizingkha.

Every year, before the tshechu commences, they practise for about a month or more. They also perform during special occasions.

The allowance given to tshechu dancers

When they are not performing, these men go back to their ‘regular life’. They normally receive a monthly salary of Nu 1,500. However, when they practice and perform during the tshechu, they will be paid Nu 9,000.


A masked dance in Bhutan.

Photo: Daphne Go/Druk Asia


Lhamoizingkha drungkhag’s administrative officer, Gyembo Dorji said that the dancers are paid a daily allowance of Nu 300 per day during practise days for their needs.

He also mentioned that the mask dancers have improved drastically. “They can dance all types of boe chaams.”

According to a Lhamoizingkha resident, Yeshey, the drungkhag used to hire dancers.

“Now our local people can perform the dances.”

The Lhamoizingkha tshechu this year was initially scheduled for the end of this month. However, it will be postponed to February instead.

“Students and teachers should also get the blessings,” Gyembo Dorji said.


This article first appeared in kuensel  and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.


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