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Bhutan

Ache Lhamo

Ashe Lhamo

Lady Goddess


Bhutan_A01_AcheLhamo

Ache Lhamo being performed at the district headquarters by the local artists.


This unique dance drama is performed in Trashigang, eastern Bhutan and Ura, central Bhutan. This one is from Merak Sakteng, village under Trashigang district in the extreme north-east of Bhutan.


Reasons for selection

Ache Lhamo is one of the unique performing arts flourished in the 16th century. In some parts of Bhutan the verses sung are in local vernacular. It has the charm and beauty of both the dance and drama. It is believed that besides being a form of entertainment it also has the powerful spell to appease local deities.


Area where performed

Ache Lhamo is sort of a tribal dance traditionally said to have originated in Tibet.


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre


Detailed explanation

Ache Lhamo or Ashe Lhamo is regarded more as drama rather than dance, but many scholars accept it as dance-drama flourished in Bhutan since a long time back.

The characteristics
Ache Lhamo literally means Sister Goddess or Lady Goddess. This is performed by herdsmen once a year in keeping with the local customs. It tells or relates stories of people famed for their piety and miraculous achievements be it spiritual or temporal. The repertoire of this art was not very broad and the style of presentation cultivated by each group varies, although the overall performance of the general framework is the same. The dance by one man and a woman is accompanied by the rhythm of the cymbal and beating of the large-sided drum, while the story unfolds in operatic recitative and chorus. Aside from the main performance comic scenes are acted with great brilliance.

The Merak Saktenpa people perform this dance-drama once a year, for five days at a time. Apart from the yearly festival, Ache Lhamo is performed, at some great monastery or wealthy noble's house and other special events of national importance.

History
The Tibetan saint and the bridge-builder Thangtong Gyalpo, in the 14th century, began his project of building iron bridges over many big rivers in Tibet. To provide adequate provisions for the laborers he developed an interesting means for collecting donations. The Chhongje Bena family with seven daughters was called upon and to each daughter he assigned different roles, while he himself beat the drum. A large audience was gathered and everyone who watched the play enjoyed it very much. This was the first time that drama was introduced in Tibet.

During the late 14th century, the saint expanded his activity of bridge construction over Bhutan, and it is believed that along with him this art traveled to Bhutan.

The saint regarded his building of iron-suspension bridges and related engineering feat as a practical application of the bodhisattva ideal, and his introduction of this dance-drama Ache Lhamo is in no way different from any Buddhist activity. He is also credited for the introduction of other classical dances and folk performing arts.


Publication and textual documentation

not yet available


Audio documentation

not yet available


Visual documentation

not yet available


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

no information at present


Data provider

Phuntsho Gyeltshen
Lecturer
Royal Academy of Performing Arts
Address: (Special Commission of Performing Arts)Post Box #493 Chubachu, Thimphu, Bhutan