Gonbo Bernag Ter Cham, Thangbi Mani, Day One: Chamjug, Rehearsal [Close shot]Additional title: Treasure Dance of the Black-Coated MahakalaAdditional title: Ging Cham
NamesCore of Culture (Organization) (Producer)Core of Culture (Organization) (Donor)
Bhutan Dance Project, Core of Culture
Dates / OriginDate Created: 2005
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZIDF 722B
TopicsDance -- BhutanFolk dancing -- BhutanDance -- Religious aspects -- BuddhismRites & ceremonies -- BhutanMasks -- BhutanFestivals -- BhutanDzongs -- Bhutan -- Bumthang (District)Bumthang (Bhutan : District)
GenresFilmed danceFilmed performances
NotesPerformers: There are only eight dancers who perform all the dances during the three days of the entire festival.Content: Thangbi Mani (Day One, Sept. 17, 2005 - Chamjug Rehearsal): Drel Cham - Wrathful Dance ; Zhauli Cham (Nyulemai Cham) - The Dance of the Evil Spirit ; Gonbo Bernag Ter Cham (Ging Cham) - Treasure Dance of the Black-Coated Mahakala ; Jin Sek - Fire Ritual ; Shazam - Dance of the Four Stags.Venue: Videotaped in performance in the front courtyard of Thangbi Lhakhang/Lhendrup Chhoeling Monastery (camera c - shoots at ground level diagonally across the courtyard), in Bumthang, on Sept. 17, 2005.Acquisition: Gift; Core of Culture. NN-PDBiographical/historical: The Thangbi festival held at Thangbi Lhakhang was founded in 1470 by the fourth Zhamarpa of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. Located in the north of Choekkhor valley, it takes about 30 minutes walk from the road through the fields of buckwheat to reach the Temple. A small village festival held annually after the harvest of Potato and buckwheat to be thankful for the good harvest. It is also the time to celebrate and to pray that all sentient beings are blessed by invoking the deities through the ritual dances that are performed.Biographical/historical: The fourth Zhamar Rinpoche of the Karmapa School came to Bumthang from Tibet in the 15th Century in order to establish a monastery and in 1470 he founded Thangbi Lhakhang, located in the middle of a wide fertile plateau overlooking the river. Following a quarrel with Pema Lingpa, Zhamar Rinpoche had to leave Thangbi. The iron curtain hanging in the entrance is said to have been forged by Pema Lingpa himself, who took over the monastery.
Physical DescriptionBorn digitalExtent: 1 video file (ca. 35 min.) : [no sound, no color]
DescriptionThis is known to be a very sacred dance (a tercham) that tells the story of how a great Lama was saved by the Protective Deity Mahakala - in the form of the Black-cloaked Mahakala - when he was imprisoned by the Mongols in China. The story of the deities haste to reach the scene - meaning that he hardly had time to roll up his trousers is remembered in that the eight dancers have one of their trouser legs rolled up - and the other one rolled down. (cf. Sithel Dorji's recounting of the legend). Since the first performance took place after dark on the first day of the Thangbi Mani (Chamjug) very little light was available. The Temple at Thangbi is affiliated with the Karma Kagyu Tradition - hence this treasure dance is related to the deities particularly held in respect by the Karmapa traditions and relates to the history of that school. The Three Main Dharmapala Protectors of the Karma Kagyu Lineage are Mahakala (under his aspect of the two-armed Gonpo Bernagchen - the black-cloaked Mahakala) Palden Lhamo and Dorji Legpa. The Second of the Karmapa Lamas, Karma Pakshi (1203 - 1283) was the first consciously incarnated lama (of the first Karmapa) in Tibet. He spent many years in China at the Mongol court of Kublai Khan - who it was said imprisoned him, and tied him down by his beard. Kublai Khan was actually much impressed by his feats of magic, and the amazing abilities of the Tibetan Lama were mentioned in the diaries of Marco Polo. The story is that he was released from his ordeals by the Mongol Emperor before the Protective Deity (Gonpo Bernagchen) could actually get to the Chinese court to help him. The legend that Gonpo Gernagchen was eventually woken up by Palden Lhamo (his consort, the wrathful deity Shri Devi in Sanskrit) embellishes the story beautifully - as does the image of the great Protector turning up too late with his clothes in disarray. Obliged by the laws of protection to do some damage to protect his Tibetan devotee, he is said to have followed the Karmapa's urgings and struck at the Imperial Palace with his hook-knife. It is believed that there is still a great gash within the Imperial Palace resulting from this attack. Another legend has it that the Karmapa struck Mahakala for his tardiness resulting in the Deity's swollen face. What is certain is that no Karmapa since the second has ever worn a beard. Karma Pakshi travelled in both China and Tibet in order to spread the Dharma. With the wealth that he received from his many patrons he was able to rebuild Tsurphu monastery (founded in 1187) which had been destroyed by local wars. Legend has it that the Lama had thrown offerings into a spring near Shang Tu before leaving China and the objects surfaced in a pool near Tsurphu several years later. This story of the Lama's magical powers and great ability contributed much to the political power of the Kharmapas at least until the rise of the Fifth Dalai Lama. In 1642 Tsurphu monastery was sacked by Mongol warriors. The rebuilt monastery was again destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but has again undergone reconstruction and risen from the rubble created by the more recent Chinese depredations. This is a unique dance performed nowhere else in Bhutan - and it has been beautifully maintained at Thangbi since the 15th Centrury. The final exit section (Zuelcham) of the tercham - as the eight dancers - wheel slowly back towards the chamkhang (green room) with their arms outstretched seems to give a wonderful illustration of the Protective spirits being drawn back into the other dimension from which they had earlier appeared. Each dancer exits after executing a number of acrobatic leaps (Yarphang). The nyulema makes a brief return during this dance - as seen in the picture - but the Mahakala manifestations give him short shrift and he runs away again. The excellent dancing was not improved by a downpour.Thangbi Mewang is held for four days, from the 13th to the 16th days of the 8th Bhutanese month.The Chamjug started in the evening - and took place almost entirely without any lights. We therefore didn't use lights to illuminate the arena - as this would have been invasive. The resulting picture quality was very low however, with the exception of some of the scenes during the Jin Sek - Ritual Fire Dance.
Type of ResourceMoving image
IdentifiersNYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19797753Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 82687dd0-8292-0130-8fb1-3c075448cc4b
Copyright NoticeCore of Culture
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