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Tshangkha Pai Ngachham

Drum Dance of Tshangkha


Tshangkha Pai Ngachham being performed by the artists of the Academy.

This dance was performed when Ugyen Rinpoche, alias Guru Padmasambhava, was to leave Tibet for Zangdog Pelri and to subjugate the Rakshasa who would otherwise devour the whole of humankind.

Reasons for selection

This drum dance has unique characteristics both from the religious and temporal point of view. It is the combined art of sacred as well as folk dance. It is mystic as sacred dance and at the same time it came to be performed by lay people without the least education in the inner sacred meanings. Therefore, it has to be preserved and promoted.

Area where performed

The sacred and unique drum dance is performed in a village called Tshangkha, under Trongsa district in central Bhutan.

Essential elements of the performing art

Dance, Music

Detailed explanation

Tshangkha Pai Ngachham derives its theme from the last and parting words of Padmasambhava. As the grief-stricken people wept bitterly, Padmasambhava said Now it's time for me to leave and you all to return, do not lament but sing as you go, play music, and dance as you go and we shall see each other again in future times.

The Characteristics
This dance is performed by male dancers. The costume is simple. They put on gho Bhutanese dress for men and are adorned with five-coloured silk cloths. In their left hands, they hold the double sided drum and in the right hand they hold the drumsticks. The dance changes its rhythm of movement according to the religious orchestra.

The dance begins with the gesture of pawo khandoi garkhil or the circling movement of heroes and Dakini and concludes with the gestural movements of the realization of chhag dzog u sum or mahamudra, mahasandhi and madhyamaka in their true nature of non-duality.

This dance form might have taken place roughly during the last decades of the 8th century. The divine consort Dakini Yeshi Tshogyel, the chief disciples and others fervently prayed to Padmasambhava when the large procession reached the top of Gungthangla pass. Padmasambhava mounted his supreme horse Balaha, and slightly elevated in the sky, he uttered his last testament to the wailing followers.

The followers, shedding profuse tears, did not wish to leave the spot and went on praying which made the guru reappear in the sky above them in a more majestic form.

This dance is not performed either in Tibet or in any other parts of Bhutan except in the village of Tshangkha, under Trongsa district in central Bhutan. The annual festival of the locality falls sometimes in the month of November where this unique dance of drum is the principal item.

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