Tshering Namgyal  | Mongar

Hundreds of devotees from Mongar received blessing from Guru Tshengye (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) on the final day of annual Ngatshang tshechu on February 9.

Three chiwogs of Phanas, Ngatshang and Thumbari in Ngatshang gewog have been keeping the tshechu alive for more than three decades. But it is becoming increasingly difficult.

Over time, it has become difficult to find dancers.

Phanas chiwog tshogpa, Kelzang Namgyel said the practice for both mask dances and cultural dances take longer than a month. Residents feel it a burden and many are reluctant to participate. 

“We can’t force them because they are not paid. So, many go to work for contractors who pay around Nu 700 a day,” he said.

Local leaders said until a few years ago, there used to be more than 35 mask dancers and 20 dancers. The number has dropped to 25 mask dancers including about five students from the locality and almost all the 12 dancers are local students.

“We are able to at least make up for now with students helping in but it is difficult to sustain,” Ngatshang gup, Dorji Leki said.

Local leaders said they have exempted the dancers from the collection of cash and kind for the conduct of the tshechu to encourage participation.

The 200 households each contribute Nu 1,000, three dre of local rice, five balls of cheese, half a kilogramme of butter, and a dre of zow. They also volunteer to contribute firewood for cooking.

Sometimes, civil servants and those working outside contribute.

Tashi Jigme, 60, from Phanas chiwog said while he did not have much to offer, he was very happy to make this small contribution like his neighbours.

Tshechu is a critical component of their community life according to a village elder.

Sangay, 79, said tshechu is the only major religious event she can attend easily to pray for a long life free of disease. “I can’t go far away to watch tshechu but I make a point to come every year without fail.”

Ngatshang dratshang monks help the public with the preparation and perform some reserved mask dances.

Once a popular Shedra (Buddhist college) in the east, Ngatshang Shedra located above the Trashigang-Mongar highway below Korilla pass was downsized to a Dratshang after the college shifted to Kidheykhar Mongar in 2000.

The dratshang has around 30 monks.