For the locals in the Chumey valley of Central Bhutan the dancing of the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu (religious festival in the Chumey Valley) has special significance and meaning. The figures both celebrate their rich cultural and religious heritage and they believe simply witnessing the dances will absolve and release them from many sins committed the previous year.
Watching the Demons Dance
Buddhism in Bhutan
Bhutan is a Buddhist country, but as Buddhism travelled across Asia, transported by the travelling Gurus, it changed and evolved absorbing and adopting many of the animist beliefs of the locals. This you can clearly see in the Buddhist festivals of Bhutan with their many stories and legends of spirits and demons of the land that have become an integral part of local Bhutanese Buddhism, nothing illustrates this better than the Demon Dance on the final day of the Tshechu.
Over 10% of the population of Bhutan are Buddhist Monks, so when you are there you tend to see a lot of them about. The Dzongs, which are old feudal fortress temples dotted all across Bhutan, are now used as centres for Government offices and are also house the Monk bodies of Bhutan, quite aptly symbolising the close relationship of the counties government and its religion. In fact Bhutan is one of the only countries that has its religion (being Buddhism) written into its constitution.
Buddhism in Bhutan
The Buddhism of the majority of the population Bhutan is what they call middle path Buddhism, that is they won’t kill animals, but they occasionally will eat meat if one of their livestock dies from an accident or old age. As a tourist in Bhutan you are usually served meat or fish with most meals, as the Bhutanese assume most Westerners want to eat meat, but the great irony of this is that all the meat for tourist consumption is imported from India!
This image shot in Thimpu Dzong, with the permission of the subject, with a Canon 5D Mk II and a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L lens
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