A festive mood has embraced Trashigang town as people from across the dzongkhag has started to gather for the annual tshechu that began on November 15.
Despite the gloomy weather, both young and old flocked the streets of the town as the final rehearsal (cham ju) was performed on November 16.
However, the attraction was more from the carnival stalls pitched at the archery range than the actual tshechu. Only about 50 spectators had gathered at the newly renovated dzong to witness the cham ju.
One of the residents, Wangdi, said that over the years, the number of people coming to witness the tshechu has decreased.
“Especially the youth are more interested to visit the stalls and play games,” he said. “Today tshechu events are more of an entertainment and business opportunity for shopkeepers. The traditional belief of tshechu being a public teaching through various symbolic mask dances is fading.”
Shantimo and a friend were the first to arrive at the dzong yesterday. “I came around 10am and except for the monks, no one was here,” she said. “We were lucky to get the best seat in the house to witness the cham.”
The 60-year-old from Jamkhar in Trashiyangtse stays with her son and family in Trashigang. “I wanted to come and witness the cham ju because I was told that it was very important by some kudungs,” she said. “My son and his family could not make it but I’m sure they would attend the remaining three days.”
The cham ju is performed as a final rehearsal of the masked dances without wearing the actual masks.
A teacher from Kanglung shedra, Karma Sherab, said that after practising the dance for almost a month, the cham ju is presented as an indication of the preparedness of the dancers.
Trashigang Lam Neten, Karma Rangdrel, said that besides testing the dancers’ preparedness, the cham ju also helps people identify the dancers and their capabilities. “Even if not all, majority of the mask dances that would be performed over the next three days will be presented during the cham dju.”
The Lam Neten said that with the renovation works completed at the dzong, this would be the first tshechu in the last four years to be held inside the courtyard of the ancient and one of the significant dzongs in the country.
“People should know the importance of tshechu and attend it for personal merits and for the wellbeing of the country in general,” he said. “Residents have to show interest and come forward to attain tshechu. This will then attract others including tourists to come and witness our unique identity that is displayed in the mask dances during the tshechu.”
A student, Ugyen Dorji, said his parents say that he has to identify each mask of the mask dancers. “But honestly, I don’t get this dances. There should be more modern dances and songs.”
A student of Sherubtse College, who did not want to be named, said that tshechu was fun only because of dresses people wear. “Besides the colour, it is also fun to hang out with friends at night,” the 20-year-old said. “Otherwise all the shops here close by 8pm and it’s a dead town.”
Meanwhile, a couple from Holland who arrived in the dzongkhag two days ago had dropped by to witness the cham dju. “It has a strange music, a typical eastern kind of melody but the dance is very artistic,” said Freek Reinders. “I’m looking forward to seeing the dances with the masks on.”
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang