Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sumthrang's Horse Dance (tsencham)


In this 13 century built monastery of Sumthrang, Kangsoel is the main annual event, a tradition left by the founder Nyoton Trulzhig Chojey who was a great kilaya yogi (Phurbi nyeljorpa).

He was one of the only son of Nyo Gyelwa Lhanangpa who is one of the most earliest Buddhist scholar to visit Bhutan and built Chelkha dzong which is the first dzong in Bhutan.

Nyoton Trulzhig Chojey, a Kilaya yogi was a son as well as a disciple to his father Nyo Gyelwa Lhanangpa who was a great Kilaya Yogi and one of the major disciples of lord Drikung Jigten Sumgoen the founder of Drikung Kagyue sect.


Kangsoel roughly translates as the offering and appeasing deities that guards the tradition, teaching and practitioners of Buddha dharma.

Going by the ritual texts, one finds phrases praising the deities of kilaya and also briefing them on their roles and responsibilities, reminding them of their duties as obliged to protect the Kilaya tradition and practices for the benefit of sentient beings.

Among the many mask dances those very much unique and far different from any other mask dances performed in other religious festivals and tsechus in Bhuta is the Tsen cham, which is also known as the Taacham(horse dance) a major mask dances performed during Kangsoel.

Ta-cham or the horse dance is the dance of the Sumthrang's local deity sumthrang draktsen known as the Lhatsen Dorji Draduel and its attendents that guards the sumthrang's monastic tradition and its practices laid by the incumbent linages.

On the first day, Tsen Cham (Draktsen Dance) is performed inside the Temple. The dance comprises of Draktsen the main figure of the dance surrounded by his attendants the kings of four directions.

The Cheracters of the dance is 1.  Sharchog Gyelpo (king of east) in white holds a hooking rope, 2. Nubchog Gyalpo (king of west) in Yellow carries bow and arrow, 3. Jangchog Gyelpo (king of north) in red carries a sword and 4.  Lhochog Gyelpo (king of south) in green carries a spear. Each king have one attendant the horse man making it eight. Sometimes when face with less performers, it is performed with six men reducing the attendants to only two.

These four kings accompanying deity Lhatsen Dorji Draduel or known as Meme Draktsen locally seems to be different from those four kings we see in other mural paintings that is known as Gyelchen Rigzhi. Because these four kings all ride a horse each and carry different items unlike the Gyelchen Rigzhi.

On the second day, Taacham (horse dance) is performed in the court yard, which is the same dance as performed in side the temple but with only four kings and its attendants with a little more steps included.

Its history of origin
Tsencham was not a treasury dance but a dance that once performed by the same characters to one of the incumbents of the monastery.

Chojey Jamyang Drakpi Yoezer and Tenpi Nyima, the grandfather of Terton Pemalingpa were born as twin brothers to the fifth Chojye of Sumthrang, Togdhen Paldhen Singye in around 1382 (as mentioned by some scholars).

Both the brothers received the Nyo tradition of Kilaya teachings but since they never received teachings of other traditions, Jamyang Drakpi Yoezer went out of home looking for his perfect teacher where he met Rigzin Goethgi Demthruk ༼རིག་འཛིན་རྒོད་ཀྱི་འདེམ་ཕྲུག༽ in Drakar Tashiding now in Sikkim, India. It is believed that one can find his foot print some where in Drakar Tashi Ding even now.

Meanwhile, Tenpi Nyima was at home never married.

Jamyang Drakpi Yoezer, after he returned home from Drakar Tashiding had a plan to head for Tsari to continue his practice of the teachings he received from his father and his great master Rigzin Goethgi Demthruk.

At that time, the local deity with his attendants, appeared unconcealed to the Chojey and requested to stay back at home to take care of the monastery and its traditions to which the Chojey consented.

Then the Lhatsen Dorji Draduel and his attendants performed the dance to celebrate the joy of having their Chojey consenting to stay back at their request.

Since then the Tsencham, later known as tacham (Horse dance) is included in the annual Kangsoel with steps of the dance picked up by Choejye Jamyang Drakpi Yoezer as he witnessed these faithful deities perform it at their joy before him.

After Jamyang Drakpi Yoezer stayed back home, Tenpi Nyima took the opportunity and left for Tibet to peruse further study and received teachings to enhance his practice of Mahayana Buddhism.

He returned back and had many disciples who requested him to get married in order to leave dungsey (linage son).

Consenting to the request of his disciples, his first child was a daughter, Ani Drubthob Zangmo, aunty of Terton Pemalingpa and later the second child was born and was named Dhondrup Zangpo for his birth fulfilled the wish of his disciples.

From Dhondrup Zangpo, Terton Pealingpa was born. Both ani Drupthob and Dhondrup Zangpo at their later age had returned back to their main home of Sumthrang and their remains of holy body is still preserved in Sumthrang Temple.

2 comments: