At dawn, the ‘Thongdrol’, the thangka which brings liberation by sight is displayed till approximately 8 A.M. A religious ceremony called ‘Shugdel’ is performed by monk body of Wangduephodrang Dzong. The Royal Troupe of Masks and Folk Dances performs also in front of the thangkaa dance called ‘Religious Dance with Guitar’ (Dranyen Choeshey). Afterwards, the thangka is rolled and folded and is kept out of sight in the Dzong until the next festival.
The ‘Thongdrol’ is a huge wall-hanging, a thangka’ which brings liberation ‘Drol’ be seeing it.
The ‘Thongdrol’ of Wangduephodrang is beautifully made and represents the eight manifestation of Guru Rimpoche. It was completed and shown first time in 1984.
The display starts at dawn and the monk-body perform ‘Shugdel’, a blessing and offering ceremony which takes place when five elements are joined together : an accomplished place, i.e., Bhutan, an accomplished master, i.e., Guru Rimpoche, an accomplished retinue, i.e., the monk-body, an accomplished time, i.e., when religion flourishes, accomplished offerings, i.e., fruit, flower, tea, incense, food etc.
All the official and the public go next to the ‘Thongdrol’ and touch it with their head, thus receiving a blessing. Later a dance is performed in front of it by the Royal troupe in the 17th century costumes : the Dance with Guitar.
Dance with Guitar (Dranyen Cham)
Costume : elaborate and heavy woolen clothes (traditional felt boots, long black skirt, brown coat) sword and circular head-dress. They are holding a guitar called ‘Dranyen’.
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who is the reincarnation of Ugyen Rimpoche and of Thuje Chenpo brought under his control, according to a prophecy of Ugyen Rimpoche, this large Southern Land of Four Approaches (an ancient name of Bhutan) and he blessed it. He protects his subjects like sons by the heavy golden yoke of civil law. As, if he was crushing them under his feet, he conquered many foreign enemies and he was victorious in all directions.
He built marvelous temples and places and made beautiful chortens, statues and religious books, supports of the faith. He imposed very strict rules upon the newly established monk-body which forms the base of the doctrine and also upon the tantric college which is the essence of doctrine. He supported like the Three Jewels the admirable community of the monks who practice together the moral training; to listen, to think, to explain, to understand and to meditate the basic texts which are contained in the Three baskets (the Buddhist Canon), essence of the Buddha’s doctrine.
The generous donors who give offerings to the gods and gifts to the people believe in the result of their actions. Because of the power of their generosity, monks and laymen will be happy in this life and the life to come. This dance of the guitar is performed in a cheerful state of mind during the festival.
Dance of the Heroes (Pachem)
Costume : knee-length yellow skirt and golden crown. The dancers hold a small bell (drilbu) and a small drum (Damaru).
The great ‘Treasure-Discover’ Pemalingpa arrived in the presence of Ugyen Rimpoche, at the summit of the Zangtho Pelri, in the middle of a marvelous palace of lotus beams which reflected the wisdom large and deep as the sky, without obstacles. There he saw Ugyen Rimpoche, the Lord who leads the beings of the three worlds, sitting among his assistantsin the centre of a limitless mandala which was made of lines of rainbow beams. In the mandala, the assembly of the sages, of the tutelary deities, of the heroes (Pawos) and the heroines (Kandom Pamo) were dancing in the forms of various emanations of the peaceful and terrifying deities. All sorts of dances were performed and all sorts of harmonious melodies which are the sounds of the religion of the Great Path (Northern branch of Buddhism) were sung. Among this congregation, the assembly of the peaceful heroes and heroines is the most important. They are as numerous as the moving clouds in order to celebrate the deep and large religion and their function is to lead the believers who die into the presence of Ugyen Rimpoche.
Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)
Costume : white skull masks, short shirts and boots
There are eight large cremation grounds at the periphery of the symbolic mandala where the assembly of secret tantric deities reside. In these grounds, dwell numerous beings who are bound by oath to protect the religion (Chhokyong). Among them are the Lords of the Cremation Grounds. True to the oath they have taken, these lords subjugate demonic enemies who violate the doctrine. They offer their vanquished foes to the gods of the Mandala who reduce them to a mere name.
Dance of the Ging and Tsholing
Costume : The Tsholing wear long colourful dresses and terrifying masks. The Ging wear orange skirts, terrifying black and orange masks with a flag on top, and hold a big drum and a curved drumstick.
On the occasion of the consecration of the Samye Monastery in Tibet, Guru Rimpoche initiated this dance to show the people of Tibet the Zangtho Pelri, his realm.
The dance depicsts the paradise of Ugyen Rimpoche from where all the incarnations of Ugyen Rimpoche, essence of all the Budhas, are sent to the Three Worlds. In the middle of a great palace is seated Ugyen Rimpoche. On his right the holy men are Tibet and India are seated in a row and on his left the learned men (Pandits) from Tibet and India. In all the intermediate zones are the 108 ‘Treasure Discoverers’ (terton) who are his incarnations, and also his twenty five disciples, including the king of Tibet Trisongdetsen.
In the centre of a rainbow, the assembly of tutelary deities (Yidam), heroes (pawos) and fairies (Kandoms), peaceful and terrifying, as if by magic, sing, dance and spread from the clouds three kinds of offerings. It is these offerings that grant both the ordinary and extraordinary realisation.
All the protectors of the religion, male and female, in their fierce form, are guarding the four outer dooars while the four Guardian Kings of the directions command an army of eight classes of spirits. These subdue all the demons who create obstacles to the Doctrine of Buddha. All these wonders have been personally observed by the ‘Treasure Discoverer’ Pemalinga.
Besides, a long time ago in Tibet, in order to introduce Buddhism, King Trisongdetsen built a large monastery in Samye. Ugyen Rimpoche, by showing hi magical powers through incarnations, subdued all the demons who were preventing its construction. Thus he fulfilled a religious commitment to the King.
These incarnations are manifested in the Ging and Tsholing Dance: the inner dance called the Ging Dance is performed by the assembly of heroes (Pawos), tutelary deities (Yidams) and fairies (Hansoms) as well as the various terrifying deities. The outer dance called Tsholing Dance, is performed by the protectors of the religion with their retinue of eight classes of spirits. This dance, which brings blessings, is performed in order to remove all obstacles to the Doctrine as well as to bring happiness to all sentient beings. When the Ging and Tsholing performed this miraculous and agitated dance, they discourage the external demons and demonstrate clearly their magical powers by which they can overcome the demons.
This dance is clearly a dance of purification before the arrival of Guru Rimpoche. People whistle to chase away the bad spirits and Ging hit everyone on the head with their drumsticks to chase away impurity from the body.
The Tsholing, after having destroyed the evil spirits symbolized by an effigy in a black box, are chased away by the Ging who stay alone and perform a dance of victory by beating their drums.
Dance of the Eight Manifestation of Guru Rimpoche (Gguru Tshen Gye)
The eight different forms that Guru Rimpoche assumed in order to convert different kinds of beings into Buddhism are represented in this dance.
Ugyen Rimpoche is the second Buddha and the incarnations of Avalokiteshvara (Thugje Chenpo), Lord of Compassion. When he was born the son of a poultry farmer, he vowed to guide all beings of the world, particularly those of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. That was why he came to these regions. When Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he prophesized to his disciples: ‘Don’t be sad, I will be coming from the West’. Thus he reappeared as Ugyen Rimpoche.
When the 100,000 fairies of wisdom were begging the Buddhas of the 10 directions to send somebody to guide all being, this was discussed at length and then all the virtues of their body, speech and mind were summed up in Ugyen Rimpoche. He came in order to guide he beings who live in the age of impurity.
His activities are beyond description, However, here is how he helped the beings of this continent through his eight manifestations :
He was born from a blue lotus on the lake of Danakosha in Oddhyana and was invited to become the son of King Indrabhuti. Then he was called Guru Tshokye Dorji, ‘Diamond Thunderbolt’ born from a lake’.
He renounced his kingdom and went to receive teachings from the Master Prabhati in the Maratika cave in Nepal. Then he was called Guru Shakya Senge., ‘The Lion of the Shakya clan’.
After listening to all the teachings of the Vajrayana, ‘The Diamond Path’ and after mastering the sciences of all Indian Pandits, he obtained full realization and was able to see all the gods and tutelary deities (yidam). The he was called Guru Loden Chogsey, ‘Guru’ who wants to acquire supreme knowledge.
After the marriage with the daughter of the King of Zahor, he was condemned to be burnt by the King. Through his magical powers, he turned the pyre into a lake and converted the kingdom to Buddhism. The he was called Guru Padmasambhava, the one ‘born from a lotus’.
When he returned to Oddhyana, the evil chiefs there wanted to burn him. But the fire would not consume his body. So the chiefs offered him the kingdom and its subjects. Then he was called Guru Pema Gyelpo, the ‘Lotus King’.
When he was preaching to the fairies (Khandoms) in the eight cremation grounds, he caught the ‘life force’ of the evil deities and turned them into protectors of the doctrine. Then he was called Nyma Yeoser, the ‘Sunbeam’.
As five hundred heretic Masters were trying to destroy the Doctrine of Buddha, he vanquished them all through the power of his words. He brought down the thunderbolt which burned them. He was then called Senge Dradrok, ‘the one who speaks with a lion voice’.
When he was at Senge Dzong in Kurtoe and at Taktsang in Paro, he was in the form of Dorje Dragpo, the ‘Terrifying Thunderbolt’. He subdued all the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism and blessed them as guardians of the Doctrine. He was then called Guru Dorji Drolo, the ‘thunderbolt’.
The fairy who is standing on the right of Guru Rimpoche is Mandarava, the lady of wisdom. Ugyen Rimpoche made her his own emanation for the benefit of the beings to be converted in the Kingdom of Zahor.
The fairy who is standing at his left is Yeshy Tshogyel. She represents the goddess of knowledge, mother of all the Buddhas. She helped to establish Buddhism in Tibet for the benefit of all beings.