This video features Paro Tsechu and Jambay Lhakhang festival. I filmed and photographed Paro Tsechu in April 2015 and Jambay Lhakhang Festival in October 2015.
Bhutanese festivals are very colourful with many interesting combination of fast moving and meditative dance movements. Among the famous dances are the Cham. I was drawn to the chanting and the sound from the long horn.
Paro Tsechu is one of the most celebrated festivals in Bhutan. It was held at the compound of Rinpung Dzong in Paro. The highlight of this festival is an elaborated cultural dances going on for days and the unveiling of the giant thangka of Guru Rimpoche. It is one of the oldest thangkas in Bhutan made in 1692. The colours were so vibrant. People dressed in their best to be at the tsechu (festival).
The King and Queen of Bhutan were also at the festival on the last day to witness the unveiled Guru Rinpoche thangka. Being lucky enough to be in the front row of the crowd, I had the privilege to see the Bhutanese royals face- to-face as they walked into the ceremonial site and stopped to chat with us, a group of excited tourists. Close up photography was not allowed of the royals. Later, I managed to capture from a far, the King and Queen sitting among their subjects during the ceremony.
In October 2015, it was the Jambay Lhakhang festival held in Bumthang, Central Bhutan. I managed to get to a village temple in Chumey for the morning festival and ritual. A very authentic Bhutanese village celebration with the local people, not the commercialised ones. It started with a phallus blessing for visitors to the ceremonial site. Again we seems to be very fortunate, to be the first to be blessed as we were approaching the site. The believe is that the phallus wards off evils and brings good luck. The most outstanding dance of the ceremony was the Black Hat Dance, also known as the Shana Cham in Tibet, where it was originated from. This dance is to commemorate the killing of the anti-Buddhist Tibetan King Langdarma in 842 by a Buddhist monk, Pelkyi Dorji. The dance also transformed the dancers into powerful tantric yogis, who take possession of the dancing areas and drive out evil spirits as they stamp the ground.
Then later at Jambay Lhakhang the ritual dances continues. Besides all the Cham dances documented in this video, the most unusual one is actually the Naked Dance. This dance is performed at Jambay Lhakhang in the freezing winter midnight by a group of naked men with only their faces are covered in masks. They paraded around the bon fire dancing and chanting to wade off the evil spirits. The sacred dance was to commemorate the construction of Jambay Lhakhang and Guru Rinpoche who introduced Tantric Buddhism in Bhutan. Unfortunately no camera was allowed to document the ritual.
Fujifilm X-T1 and X-E2
Fujinon lens 18-55 mm f/2.8 - 4
Fujinon lens 55-200mm f/3.5 - 4.8
The new wide tracking and zone modes on the X-T1 work wonders. That was the latest firmware 4 update. Perfect for capturing fast moving subjects like these dancers in Bhutan and produces clear images.