Thousands of people stepped into the courtyard of the Tashichhoedzong to witness the second day of the Thimphu Dromchoe yesterday.

Dromchoe is part of the 15 days annual Lhamoi Drubchhen ceremony performed by the Central Monastic Body.

Lungten Wangdi, 48 have regularly attended the Dromchoe for over 24 years with his parents and family. “Elders and parents say that Dromchoe must be witnessed. It is believed that we should be able to identify beings represented by masks in afterlife.”

A researcher at the Zhung Dratshang, Lhendup Tshering said that the annual Lhamoi Drubchhen ceremony is one of the biggest and most important rituals performed in the country. “It is not only important in terms of religion but also in affairs of the state as it is performed to guard the country from external forces.”

He said the Drupchhen was instituted by the first incarnation of Jampel Dorji, the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Kuenga Gyaltshen in 1709. It is believed that while in meditation, Kuenga Gyaltshen witnessed Pelden Lhamo perform the dances.

Chams (mask dances) performed during the Drubchhen are based on the biography of Pelden Lhamo. Lhamoi Drubchhen comprises of three phases. Lhendup Tshering, said that the first day is the preparatory phase followed by 11 days of Drubchoe performed inside the dzong and the last three days is the Dromchoe.

During Drubchoe sacred rituals, prayers and prostrations are offered to the guardian deity, Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali).

He said that the three-day Dromchoe is the final phase where mask dances are performed and Pelden Lhamo’s Mandala (Kilkhor) is displayed to the people. “This is for people to gain merit, cleanse their sins, clear obstacles, and to bring peace in the country.”

Drubchhen, which is conducted for the well being of the country, also preserves culture and tradition. Between the mask dances, dancers from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) performed several boedra and zhungdra.

Lungten Wangdi said that they used to bring packed lunch in the past but now they don’t. “I think it is mainly to do with the trend. Before, families used to bring lunch and alcohol but now, we hardly see any. In the past, there were fewer restrictions.”

The essence of the Drubchhen comes down to the sacred cham called Lham Tsomoi Ku Cham performed during the second day of Dromchoe.

People were still walking into the courtyard to get a glimpse of the cham. Dechen Zangmo, 68 was one of them. “When I arrived here at 10AM, the courtyard was already crowded. I had to stand to watch the cham.”

Witnessing the mask dances, Lhaba Tshering, 63 said that Dromchoe is an important festival as it is sacred and blessed. “It is said that if we receive blessings from Pelden Lhamo we will be reborn as a human being for hundreds of time.”

He said that the second day of Dromchoe is more sacred than others as Pelden Lhamo’s blessing is considered strongest during the Lham Tshomoi Ku Cham.

Dromchoe is also a festive time for families. Aum Pem, 69 came from Paro to get together with her children who lives in Thimphu. She said that Dromchoe was the only day her children were free from work. “I also came here to witness the cham which is considered sacred.”

The Dromchoe ends today with the immersion of the Mandala of the mask dances in the river.

Karma Cheki and Rinchen Zangmo