Culture: Yongba Cham, Martshala’s own masked dance of the dumb, died 10 years ago. The introduction of other chams was the beginning of its disappearance.

But the people are trying to bring back the dance. They are learning the dance to pass it on to their children so that the unique dance is preserved. The dance was one of the features of the local tshechu this year. This has been possible with financial contributions from civil servants in the gewog.

Fifty-three-year-old Ugyen Dorji is the dance teacher. He said reviving the dance was not easy because it was not performed for a long time. The dance steps were all but lost and the youngsters knew nothing about the existence of the dance, he added.

About seven villagers showed up with interest to perform the dance. And, slowly, they were able to revive the dance.

“We know that the dance was considered important and auspicious, but there is no record of how the dance came to the gewog. Some believe it came from Tibet,” said Ugyen Dorji. “Much of the things have been lost with time. There is no written script whatsoever about the dance.”

Ugyen Dorji said it is also believed that the Buddha introduced the dance disguised as a dumb person. There were no specific steps but there are certain gestures that are important to follow.

The revival of the dance was good news for the people who believe witnessing this dance will bring blessings and ward off ill luck.

“We believe that this dance was created to fool evil spirits so that they don’t harm human beings. That is why we consider this dance very important. The dance gestures and the mask are such that it makes people laugh. It also entertains the people,” said Ugyen Dorji.

According to Ugyen Dorji, the revival of Yongba Cham has also helped revive other chams like the Jangchubsempa Cham, Phakpa Cham and Ara Khachung Cham because these dances must be performed after the Yongba Cham.

“We’re happy that we were successful in bringing back the dances. It is now our responsibility to pass them to the younger generations,” said Ugyen Dorji.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrup Jongkhar