Tshechu: Choekhorling gewog in Pemagatshel was near losing its age-old tradition. Not many young people are left in the villages to carry on the responsibility of preserving and promoting village traditions and cultures. And the old have retired.

So a few students, civil servants and corporate employees met. Tshogpas and mangmis joined. A common goal was set. The village tshechu must endure. To revive the dying tradition so, they decided to perform the masked dances. They learnt how to do it.

Mangmi Jigme said that with encouragement from the elders they were able to could bring back the tshechu. That was last year. Choekhorling’s three-day tshechu this year ended yesterday. From none left, the gewog today can boast of some 17 masked dancers.

“Who will come to save our traditions if we do not stand ourselves?” asked a 30-year-old corporate employee, Yeshi Zangpo. “We pledged that we would perform the dances organise the tshechu every year without fail.”

It is first time for all the masked dancers. It was difficult learning complicated dance steps. But they were determined. They had to save the tshechu. Today, they are all proud of themselves, for what they been able to achieve together.

Jigme said that Lingpa Gye – the dance of the eight Lingpas – was brought to the gewog from Khar long time ago. The tshechu is believed to have first performed at Dungur Lhakhang and there it is performed still. Where dancers leap around is a small ground but it is big enough for Meme Khamtang to run about. Meme Khamtang, here, at this tshechu is who in other tshechus would be called Atsara. It falls on the oldest man in the gewog to be Meme Khamtang.

“It is believed the steps of the masked dance are different from steps of other masked dances. That is why it is unique. We wanted to preserve this uniqueness,” said Jigme.

Tsampa Passang, 78, said Meme Khamtang is the important element of the tshechu. “Besides entertaining the spectators, his unique job is to act like he is feeding the dancers. He is also the leader of masked dances and will have to the dancers.”

The people of the gewog who are working elsewhere donate money to help conduct tshechu. With the money, dress and masks are purchased. There is tokha (meal) for dancers and spectators entire for three days.

Already this initiative to revive the tshechu is a big success. People coming to witness the tshechu is increasing by the year.

“Some of us contribute as volunteers. If we are not dancing, we donate food during tshechu,” said Tempa Zangpo, 55, from Yarjung chiwogs. “That’s how we keep the tradition alive. It is important that we become a little more responsible.”

Yangchen C Rinzin, Nganglam