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Lemah, Pazap Lema and Beh dances in the Punakha Dzong, Punakha Drubchen: Day Five

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Lemah, Pazap Lema and Beh dances in the Punakha Dzong, Punakha Drubchen: Day Five

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Lemah, Pazap Lema and Beh dances in the Punakha Dzong, Punakha Drubchen: Day Five
Additional title: Martial Song
Core of Culture (Organization) (Producer)
Core of Culture (Organization) (Donor)

Bhutan Dance Project, Core of Culture

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2005
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDF 770
Dance -- Bhutan
Folk dancing -- Bhutan
Dance -- Religious aspects -- Buddhism
Rites & ceremonies -- Bhutan
Dzongs -- Bhutan -- Punakha (District)
Punakha (Bhutan : District)
Festivals -- Bhutan
Ritual and ceremonial dancing -- Bhutan
Filmed dance
Filmed performances
Biographical/historical: The Punakha Drubchen is one of the most sacred festivals in Bhutan. This Drubchen is dedicated to Yeshey Goenpo (Mahakala) one of the three Protector Deities of Bhutan. The first two days of the Drubchen see dances taking place inside the Dukang Shrine amongst monks, witnessed only by elected officials of the Government and VIP guests. Whilst Core of Culture were allowed to witness these highly-protected rituals and the sacred dances that accompany them, filming was not allowed. The dances of the third and final day take place before the public, outside, in the main courtyard of the Dzong.
Content: Programme for the Punakha Drubchen: Day Five (Feb. 17, 2005): Nob Chu Sha ceremonial Procession of H.H. the Je Khenpo down along the river-side outside the Dzong, where he re-enacts the casting of the precious relic, Rangjung Kharsapani, into the Mo-chu River. This immersion ceremony was performed by the Zhabdrung in 1639 to trick the Tibetan invaders into believing the relics had been destroyed.
Venue: Videotaped at the Main courtyard, Punakha Dzong (Kabgoen Lhakhang at the Dzong stairway), on Feb. 17, 2005.
Acquisition: Gift; Core of Culture. NN-PD
Biographical/historical: Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong (The Palace of Great Bliss) in Punakha was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1637-38 and is of great historical significance. Located on a stretch of land where two rivers, the Phochu and Mochu, coverage, the Dzong appears as great anchored ship. It was here that the Zhabdrung died in 1651. Again, it was here that the first hereditary Monarch of Bhutan, King Ugyen Wangchuck, was enthroned just over one hundred years ago, on Dec. 17, 1907. Punakha served as the winter capital of the Kingdom until 1955, (after which the capital moved to Thimphu) and Punakha Dzong continues to be the winter residence of the Central Monastic Authority (CMA) the main monk body of the Drukpa Kagyu School.
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 1 video file (ca. 17 min.) : sound, color
Lemah and Beh describe kinds of martial dances - often performed at tsechus and during certain rituals. The Lemah is a dance particularly associated with Punakha, and normally describes how the eight pazap groups are called to Punakha to take part in the celebrations remembering the famous victory over the Tibetan army under the Zhabdrung in 1639 - a memorial particularly associated with the Punakha Drubchen. Punakha was the seat of the Zhabdrung, and before the Punakha Drubchen could start all the Penlops (from Trongsa, Paro and Dagana) and Dzongpoens (Wangdue, Thimphu etc.) had to pay taxes (bulwa or byu) (see the scene in the Coming of the Zhabdrung, 2005). The words sung in the Lemah dance contain a narration describing the whole story associated with the paying of these taxes and the other things associated with those times. It's rather like the Tam in Ngangbi Lhakhang, giving a description of those times. Each group singing Lemah will have a praise-song to their particular deities, for example the Bab Lemah (from Thimphu (Babesa)) talks of the deity from Semtokha - which is Legung Djarok Dongchen - the Raven-headed Mahakala. To paraphrase the words: It is an auspicious time here, and everything is as it should be. We have come to Punakha, together with our deity, the Raven-headed Mahakala from Semtokha to participate in the Drubchen. Last year we had a wonderful time at the Drubchen, and this year we will do the same, at this time of the auspicious waxing energies of the first part of the month. Extracted from Punakha Drubchen and Tsechu - Published by RAPA. All eight Lemah songs are reproduced (in Dzongkha) in this booklet. As in this picture, the Lamah singer points his bow and arrow to the four directions before he begins to sing. The Beh dances were introduced by the Zhabdrung after the victory over the Tibetan forces in 1639. They are much more martial in aspect, and more wrathful in their wording. Each of the eight Gewogs has its own Beh wording. To refer again to the Bab Gewog: When Mahakala becomes incensed with anger, he turns into the wrathful Raven-Headed Mahakala, and then he roars like a thunder-dragon; that is, when his shouting voice most protects the Buddhism of Bhutan. All evil spirits are vanquished....Beware!!!! (these last words are shouted as a war-cry). Extracted from Punakha Drubchen and Tsechu - Published by RAPA. All eight Beh songs are reproduced (in Dzongkha) in this booklet.The Pazaps perform the same dances already seen yesterday in various parts of Punakha Dzong before leaving the Dzong - with their leaders on horseback. A particular kind of Pazap dance - there is one Lemah performer to each of the Eight groups of Pazaps from each Gewog represented.
Type of Resource
Moving image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19825558
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): fb812f80-e7ef-0130-a91a-3c075448cc4b
Copyright Notice
Core of Culture
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 2005: Created
  • 2013: Digitized
  • 2020: Found by you!
  • 2021

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Lemah" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2005.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Lemah" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 26, 2020.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2005). Lemah Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Lemah, (2005)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=May 26, 2020 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>