DANCE – Tibetan Monks Sacred Dance “a privilege to witness”

Photo: Morag Phillips


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We are indeed fortunate to be allowed a glimpse into this mystical and ancient world. From the moment two turmeric robed monks walk onto the stage and we hear the doleful call of the Long Horns, or Dung’chen,we feel transported to another realm; one of kindness, contemplation and compassion.

The Tibetan Monks Sacred Dance is brought to Edinburgh by Monks from the Tashi Lhungpo Monastery, located in Southern India. The original Monastery in Tibet was established by the 1st Dalai Lama in the 15th Century. It is the seat of the Panchen Lama (Great Precious Teacher) who holds the highest spiritual level after the Dalai Lama. In 1959 the Chinese invaded Tibet, some of the monks fled, setting up a new monastery in India.

After the Dung’chen have called the monks to prayer, we witness a short display of chanting and mantra’s. Although the chant is very deep and drone like, the monks all have slightly different pitch and tone, each soothing to the ears.

In between each item, a narrator JANE RASCH comes on at the side and briefly explains the next piece. This, I feel, further enhances the experience.

The first dance we are introduced to is The Stag and Buffalo. With colourful masks and richly embroidered costumes the monks invoke the protection of the guardian deities. They are accompanied by a small hand held drum (Damaru), a bell (Drilbu), and Gyangling (similar to an Oboe), as well as the Dung’chen (Long Horns).

There follows a demonstration of prayers using hand gestures called Mudras. These are very delicate and intricate movements. Quite mesmerising in fact. Each gesture has a specific spiritual meaning. We are told it takes years of study to learn. It is beautiful to watch.

Before we move on to more dances we get to experience a really interesting part of every Monks day; The Art of Debate (Taksel). All the monks gather each morning to discuss various topics. This is staged between the monks present, it is lively and humorous. At times it gets quite heated but all the while you are aware the combatants are enjoying the spirited discussion.

There are two final dances. ‘The Lords of Death Dance’, with its stunning masks that echo morality, and the ‘The Black Hat dance’ which tells the tale of a King who sought to eradicate the monks but was himself assassinated. Once again we gasp to see the most beautifully embroidered brocade in a myriad of colour.

A spiritual and informative experience may be expected, but the performance was also flawlessly entertaining, and a privilege to witness. Too soon it is over and we close with prayers for the environment, health in mind and body, and for Universal spiritual harmony, leaving the audience with a deep sense of relaxation and happiness.