When I take a tour group to one of these stunning cultural festivals in Bhutan I try to remain as unobtrusive as possible, bearing in mind that this is their festival, and I am a guest. I tend to stand quietly in one place for quite some time, on the corner of a building or off to the side of some steps, watching and when the opportunity presents making an image, like this one.
Dancers having a Tea Break at the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in Chumey
Not Getting in the Way
The Bhutanese are lovely friendly people and a regular occurrence when they see me standing at the back is to invite me forward (to stand in front of them) so I can see better… Now I am 180cm tall and most Bhutanese are somewhat smaller than that, so if I stand in front of them they won’t be able to see a thing. Naturally I decline, but often that simple interaction is enough to start a conversation where I often discover that the person I am talking to studied in Australia (Engineering, science or similar), or has a brother, or sister, or Son or Grand Daughter studying there.
Image shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the 100mm f2.2 lens… without getting in the way or being a nuisance.
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.
Image shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the 100mm f2.2 lens on my last Photo Tour to Bhutan
A Demon enters the Bumthang (the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in the Chumey Valley of Central Bhutan) Tshechu from the Monastery door, Heralded by the sounding of the drum and a gong by two novice Monks. A third young Monk serenely watches the Demons Dance during the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in the Chumey Valley.
This Dance is the last dance of the last day of the Tshechu and is marked by wild spinning and leaping. The demons are chased off one by one in wild leaping displays of flashing whips and clanging discordant drums, it is the most primal and spectacular dance of the whole Tshechu, well worth the wait.
Both images shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and Hasselblad 100mm f2.2 lens