Tshechu: Thousands of devotees from across the country gathered at the courtyard of Lhodrakharchu Dratshang in Bumthang to witness Phurpaicham on June 18.

People believe that viewing it even once will wash away sins and bad Karma.

The gathering was so huge that many had to find space at the courtyard. Farther beyond, at Chamkhar town, there wasn’t space enough for vehicles to park.

The devotees did not leave the courtyard until the programme for the day ended. This was because the most sacred of all seven different sections of the dance, Shawa Karpoi Chham, was listed as the last item for the day.

Shawa Karpo, (white reindeer) steps in between the dance performed by other forms of deities (Lhatshog) and displays an act of subduing an evil figure placed in the middle of the courtyard. The human form is made out of moulded flour.

He cuts the head, heart and other sect of the body and flung it in to the crowd. People consider pieces of this moulded flour sacred too. They take home if got a little.

Trendhachenmo organiser, Lopen Losel, said Shawa Karpoi Cham was performed in Tibet many years ago although it is considered unique in Bhutan. He said the first Namkhainyingpo performed it at Lhasa, Tibet.

“In performing this, Namkhainyingpo flew and went round the waists of the houses like birds displaying his supernatural power,” he said. Thereafter, Shawa Karpoi Chham came to be known as Lhodrak Shawa Karpoi Chham.

To take the form of Shawa Karpo, the names of the best dancers were collected and buried in balls of moulded flours and kept in Goenkhag (Sanctrum) for three nights. They performed appeasing rituals to the deities and also requested them to identify the most appropriate dancer.

Either Dorji Lopen or Lama of the dratshang shakes the container containing the balls with the names of the dancers. Shawa Karpo dancer is chosen thus.

The other sections of the dance are Sadulgi Chham, Durdag Chham, Zhanag Chham, Goma Zhi Chham, Lha Aechham and Rigdue Chham.

Phurpa is considered the Lhaktshog of all kinds of Buddhas, making the dance a sacred one.

The dance is said to have originated from Cheku Kuentu Zangpo, Longku Dorji Sempa, Trulku Garab Dorji, Lopen Pravahati and Guru Rinpoche.

It is said Guru Rinpoche taught the dance to his 25 disciples (Jebang Ngyernga).

Tshechu chhams were also performed yesterday. Trendhachenmo concludes today with the display of Guru Tshegye Thongdrol and long life blessing (Tshewang).

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang