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Dramitse Ngacham

( UNESCO Masterpiece: Proclamation 2005 )

Dance of the Drums from Dramitse


Dramitse Ngacham being performed by the artists of the Academy.

It is a sacred religious mask dance performed by twelve dancers. The performers are not necessarily monks and even lay people can perform this dance. They don rich robes of silk and brocade and the masks represent different manifestation of deities.

Reasons for selection

Unlike the sacred mask dances performed elsewhere, this one is an indigenous one developed by Saint Pema Lingpa the treasure revealer of Bhutan, who was the ancestor of the present royal family. Compared with others, treasure revealed mask dances are considered highly sacred and esoteric and are highly revered. They cannot be composed by ordinary people and as such, unless one is highly learned in tantric discipline the meaning of such dances cannot be expounded. Hence, it should find a place in the Data Bank.

Area where performed

This sacred mask dance originated in the village called Dramitse under Mongar district in eastern Bhutan.

Essential elements of the performing art

Dance, Music, Theatre

Detailed explanation

Dramitse Ngacham forms one of the important religious mask dances to be performed during religious festival such as Tshechu, the 10th day of the Bhutanese calendar.

The Characteristics
The performance of Dramitse Ngacham is not restricted to one place and is performed widely all over Bhutan during religious festivals and other special events.

The dancers, once in full costume should visualize themselves as deities. They hold large drums in their left hands and drumsticks in the right hands. The masks are of different animals and of different colours. It is but a dramatization of the dance performed in heaven called Zangdog Pelri, the majestic and glorious copper-coloured mountain, the celestial abode of Guru Padmasambhava who is the second Buddha. In the celestial heaven of Zangdog Pelri the attendants of the guru, who are dancers, are said to be adorned with splendid jewels. It is believed that through the mere sight of the dance and sound of the drums one acquires the qualities of spiritual attainment.

Descended from Pema Lingpa, the great and illustrious revealer of sacred hidden treasures, a nun called Chorten Zangmo in the 16th century A.D. once lived in the monastery of Dramitse in eastern Bhutan. Her brother, the learned saint Kuenga Gyelshen, not only saw Guru Padmasambhava alias Guru Rinpoche many times and heard his teachings but also through his own miraculous power visited Zangdog Pelri many times.

The retinue of Guru Padmasambhava were transformed into one hundred peaceful and wrathful deities, each with a drum in the left hand and a drumstick in the right, and performed a dance. Kuenga Gyelshen, having witnessed this dance, returned to the human world and established the tradition of this dance. He called this dance Dramitse Ngacham or the Dance of the Drums of the Dramitse.

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