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Community Tshechus in Trashigang

Community Tshechu: Not having enough people, who can perform mask dances, could soon put an end to the community tshechus in Trashigang, a much-awaited annual event for many.

Till now, it was mostly the villagers themselves, and the lay monks with the community lhakhangs, who performed mask dances, an integral part of the tshechus.

Every tshechu that usually went on for three days needed over 50 mask dancers to perform different dances.In three days, both laymen and gomchens performed over 17 different dances.

As a result, an annual feature on the cultural calendar could be at risk of extinction

But like many other communities, Phongmey is confronted with a dearth of mask dancers for two village tshechus in Gazari and Phuemsum.

Bidung mask dancers perform during cham joog at the annual tshechu

Phongmey gup Palden Dorji said, since people have started showing lack of interest in mask dances, they had to persuade villagers to join in every year.

He said, with the senior dancers having aged, without any successor in place, and with all the children enrolled in schools, there was nobody to take up mask dancing.

Rural-urban migration and lack of benefits from such activities had also caused many to give up the dances.

Kezang, a mask dancer from Phongmey, said, except for exemption from doolang, a contribution made by the community for the conduct of tshechu, they don't get any benefit for performing during the tshechus.

People had to contribute Nu 1000, 20kg of rice and some locally brewed wine for the tshechus.

Another dancer Jigme Dorji said, while the existing ones might be able to perform for a few more years, it would be difficult after that, since younger generation was not keen on learning the dances.

"Who'll perform after that?" he said.

Having faced a similar problem, villagers in Bidung gewog have started arranging some monetary benefits for mask dancers, to prevent them from leaving.

"We've decided to compensate the dancers with Nu 3,000 for the teacher, and Nu 500 each for the dancers," a villager from Bidung, Karma Rabgay said.

Having to look for dancers for the gewog's five tsechus, Radhi gup Jigme Namgyel said, if proper interventions are not made, the tshechus that have huge significance could disappear.

"Something needs to be done to bring in people, who know the dances and are available for the tsechus," he said.

This article was contributed by Tempa Wangdi, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2013

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