Bhutan’s Famous Chham Festival

Dance and music play a very important part in the cultural life of the people of Bhutan. Each village and community has a rich tradition of dance which marks the passing seasons, communal occasions and shared experiences. We will look at the significance and the place of Chhams( Mask Dances) performed during the festivals through the history of the people of Bhutan.

Just like the building of the Dzongs and the setting up of the Chhoesi system, the dances have had a similar part to play in helping to unite the people. Through these dances, the ordinary people come to know their place in the history of the country. Chhams are usually performed during Tshechu festival.

The chhams were composed mainly to convey religious messages to people. Some were composed by Guru Rinpoche while others were created by Tertoen Pema Lingapa, Zhabdrung Rinpoche and other great saints. During the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are invoked and through their power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. All evil spirits and demons which are preventing the spread of Chhoe (the doctrine) are suppressed so that the doctrine of Lord Buddha may flourish and bring joy and happiness to all beings.

Mask dances are performed by monks as well as by laymen. The following are some of the dances performed during the Tshechu festival.

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