Unlike the past years, where Phuentsholing thromde hired the masked dancers from Chukha dzongkhag, it was the students of the six schools of the thromde and monks of the Pelden Tashichholing Tsuglakhang, who performed the mask dances during the Phuentsholing tsechu this year.
The one-day festival was held on October 24.
At the changing room of the Tsuglakhang, Kunzang Norbu Rai, 14, a class VIII student from one of the schools in Phuentsholing, was nervous as he wore the mask dance dress.
His friends from his school and other teenagers from other schools were all lost in the business of masked dancing and its preparations.
The young students gave Phuentsholing tshechu an outstanding show. The spectators also had a glimpse of hope for cultural masked dance in the young mask dancers.
Kunzang Norbu Rai said it was his first time.
“I am prepared,” he said. “I will be performing Drametse Ngachaam.”
He said he practised in the morning and evening at schools and also at home to perfect the moves.
Meanwhile, more than 15 students each, girls and boys, from the six different schools participated at the tshechu yesterday.
Masked dancers have practised for months for the occasion, some even for seven months. Professional practitioners trained them.
A 15-year-old class IX student, Ngawang Namgay, said he performed masked dances in Nganglam. As a chaampoen yesterday, he led his dancing troop for Ngaging Chaam.
After performing the dance, back at the changing room, he said practice made it easier for the team.
“I would like to continue mask dancing,” Ngawang Namgay said.
Another class IX student, Kinley Wangdi, 14, said he was scared in the beginning and feared if he would do something wrong.
“But I did not do any mistake,” he said. “I am proud to perform here today.”
During the last four Phuentsholing tshechus, the thromde had hired all the equipment and professional dancers from Chukha.
Thromde’s executive secretary, Wangchuk Thaye, said the tshechu would go on a long way to promote culture and tradition in Phuentsholing, which shares a porous border with Jaigaon.
“Students from each school would perform one mask dance like they performed this time every year from now,” he said.
Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said the spectators had increased each year in Phuentsholing tshechu.
“Many did not come before,” he said, adding that people should come, as it was tshechu for people.
Uttar Kumar Rai said that Phuentsholing has a population that includes people from all the dzongkhags in the country. “As people miss to attend tsechus in their hometowns, a tshechu in Phuentsholing gives them an opportunity for a meaningful cultural and festive engagement.”
He said with the increasing number of spectators, the expenses would increase by the day. “Thromde is trying all possible means to sustain the festival.”
Meanwhile, Sangay Wangdi, 31, from Zhemgang, who had come to witness the tshechu for the first time in his 10 years of stay in Phuentsholing said he did not expect the tshechu would be a grand one.
“But it is really good,” he said, adding he would not miss next year.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing