The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival will take place every year on December 13 at the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang’s Festival ground. The inaugural performance will be held on December 13, 2011. The venue is related to important national landmarks while the date commemorates the commencement of the military expedition of 2003.
The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival’s venue features two of very impressive modern Bhutanese monuments. Including the works on the powerful mural paintings, the temple took almost four years to build. The temple was built under the personal supervision of Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wanghuck, a year after she built the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens. Druk Wangyel Lhakhang was consecrated in June, 2008.
Following Bhutanese tradition, the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is named after its location. The Dochula pass is one of the most spectacular passes in Bhutan and is about 45 minutes’ drive (22km) from the capital city, Thimphu. The performance ground of Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival straddles the famous pass at the heart of the Royal Botanical Park, 3,116 meters above sea level. The pass marks the watershed between the districts of Thimphu on the western side and Punakha on the eastern side. It presents a panoramic view of these districts and some others beyond them.
In addition to stunning vistas, the surrounding area of the festival ground features an impressive range of vegetation. Its northern flank consists of a rising spur of hemlock and rhododendron forest, while blue pine and oak forest covers the pass’s western slope that drops gradually towards the Semtokha valley. Humid evergreen, broad-leaved forest grows on the eastern slope of the pass which too descends rapidly towards the Wangdue and Punakha valleys. The area that will serve as the festival ground was originally a naturally occurring alpine meadow, scattered with juniper, oak, pine and rhododendron trees. In the summer of 2010, the meadow was cleared, leveled and slightly expanded to prepare the Tshechu venue.
Excluding the spurs on either side overlooking the ground where spectators can sit, the area of the festival ground measures 55 by 45 metres, encompassing a total of 2,475 square metres. The area of the festival ground is slightly larger than the courtyard of Tashichhodzong, which measures roughly 42 by 42 metres or an area of 1,764 metres. The Thimphu Drupchhoe and Tshechu have been performed for hundreds of years in this courtyard before it was shifted to the present stadium style venue at Tendrelthang. Dochula’s sitting capacity is calculated to be around 4000 people when they are seated cross-legged in a compact manner. This estimate of sitting capacity of the venue excludes the theatrical performance ground of 60 feet radius.
The circular performing stage of the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival gently slopes up towards the centre to form a mound. The centre rises five feet higher than its periphery. The concept of the ground deviates from that of an amphitheatre where the audiences sit at a level much higher than the performers. In an amphitheatre, the angle of visions slant downward to the stage. The shape of the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival ground is exactly the opposite. This unusual stage was shaped in that way so that the spectators’ angle of vision will be upward towards the centre stage. The optical illusion created will enhance the theatrical experience because the performers will loom larger than life.
As the performers come out onto the centre stage, it will appear to the audience as if they are emerging from behind a hill, head first, like an approaching ship rising from an oceanic horizon. The performers will then loom larger and larger on the raised mound as they come into full view against the distant view of some of Bhutan’s highest mountain peaks of Jigme Singye Wangchuck Mountain Range, which are in turn set against the wintry blue sky. The ultimate effect that is expected to be created by this visual play is a heavenly sight of the performers as they leap, dance and hover on the crest of the snowy mountains, thus exploiting the full grandeur of Dochula’s scenic setting.
Dances and Description
Dance of Gadpo Ganmo
The first performance will be the mask dance of Gadpo and Ganmo, abbreviated henceforth as Gadpo Ganmo. There will be five old men and five old women in this dance. The dress of Gadpo was based on Ngangla Chodpa in Kheng and Nyalamdung Kuchoed in Kurtoe Khoma. 1 Although these two festivals are apart my considerable geographical distance, the dress of Gadpo in both places said to be that of ‘togden garpa’ in medieval period is strikingly similar. The antiquity of both of these two festivals is beyond doubt pre-Zhabdrung, ie., before 17th century. This led us to believe that Gadpo Ganmo is a very old performance, which is unusual in giving room for spontaneous bard like singing. The dress of Ganmo reflects tailoring and design of leukashing worn by women of certain parts of eastern Bhutan until the mid-20th century. Photographs of maids, probably from eastern Bhutan, of the Royal Family of King Ugyen Wangchuk taken in 1905 show them in leukashing. Most typical folk dances on high occasions in upper eastern Bhutan are also performed in leukashing.
The dance of Gadpo and Ganmo is usually punctuated by verses introducing themselves and the purpose of their visit at the beginning of the festival. The dance is meant to bring prosperity, longevity and happiness to the audience. The verse recited by the performers proclaims that they have descended from heaven unto earth in order to bless the audience with all desirable ingredients of life. The narrative begins with the descent of these divine persons unto Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak of the country, which is visible on the eastern horizon of Dochula. The verse describes how they then walked arduously unto Dochula, the place chosen as the meeting point between them and the people. Geographic and ecological sensitivity of Dochula is described as a unique one in the narrative. These old men and women point out in a clockwise direction all the memorable and auspicious sites seen from the wide vista of Dochula, beginning with Sinchula, Gasa, Punakha, Shengana, Talo, Nobgang, Toebesa, Begana, Wangdue and Pelela amongst others.
The full length verse composed for the festival at Dochula contains reference to Dochula in relation to the lives of great personalities of the country such as Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529), Terton Drugda Dorji (died in water hog year corresponding to 1713) and Drupthob Jimba Gyaltshen, the younger brother of Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye. For example, Terton Drugda Dorji spent his last years at Lungchutsey near Dochula. Lam Drukpa Kuenley reputedly conquered the ogress of Dochula with his famed manhood. Drupthob Jimba Gyaltshen on his return from Punakha passed away at Dochula. However, to keep the dance short, only the summary version will be chanted in the festival.
Dochula’s association with great figures continues to this day. Lama Sonam Zangpo built a Khangzang Chorten at Dochula. Her Majesty the Queen Mother continued the embellishment, in a spiritual and architectural way, of Dochula by building the 108 chortens and the grand temple atop the pass at Dochula. While specifying the geographical location of Dochula, the verse chanted by the dancers finally turns to the prosperous communities established towards the west of the pass such as those in Yuesipang and Hongtsho among lush fields of apple, potato and other crops.
To shatter the nervousness and anxiety normally associated with sexuality, its repression and possessiveness associated with sexuality, display of lewd objects and gestures is usual in any Gadpo Ganmo dance, along with bawdy acts of Atsaras, performed in festivals across the country. So the dance of the old men and women has a part about male and female organs. The dance thus overturns any obfuscating conventions and dogmas of false ethics, in an effort to revert people to the original state of sanity.
The dance of the old men and women, signified by wrinkled faced masks covered in shocks of white hair, is said to be actually representative of the God of Long Life in the archetypal painting of longevity called the Six Longevity. It is contended by some scholars that the dance is a dramatic version of this painting. The Six Longevity painting suggests a profound interdependence between nature on the one hand and the prosperity and longevity of people on the other.
Depicted in the painting of Six Longevity is a river whose course begins in the snowy mountains and flows towards the ocean. Thus, the first symbol is the river on and around which all life revolves.
Another component of the Six Longevity is a cave of great depth. The cave is, after all, the womb in which human civilization developed by sheltering the first human ancestors. At the same time, a cave in Vajrayana Buddhism is a site of enlightened reflection and subsequent exercise of profound capabilities of the human mind and body by those who take long sessions of meditation in those caves. In Bhutan, most of the famous pilgrim spots are caves where enlightened masters took retreat away from the selfish and the conflict prone world of the ordinary people.
The third element is a bird with a long tail, often represented by a peacock with a display of its splendid plume. Its unusual diet of poisonous plants suggests how beauty and poisonous consumption go together by way of transforming base elements. This dietary peculiarity also applies to the pheasant such as the beautiful monal pheasant which feeds on deadly aconite plant. Incidentally, the Dochula range is home of this bird.
The fourth element of the six longevity is a four footed animal such as a stag with its long, towering antlers suggesting that the bearer has been able to have a long, prosperous life.
The fifth element of the composition is a towering old tree from which an abundance of saplings replicate and regenerate surrounding forests.
The last element in this composition is an old man with flowing white hair and a wrinkled face, which however radiates vitality and youthfulness. The old man is known as the God of Longevity or Lha Tshering in Dzongkha. In this dance, the old men represent the God of Long Life who has descended on earth to bless us with longevity, peace, prosperity and happiness. Thus, both the old men and women dance with joyous abandon and permissive overtones to celebrate the bounty of life. In doing so, they welcome the audience from all walks of life by wishing them an enjoyable day at Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival.
Dance of Milarepa and Tshering Chednga
A series of dances featuring Jetsun Milarepa (1040-1123) and the five rock demons, the five enchanting ladies, the five goddess-sisters Tshering Chednga, their five mounts and five liveries will be staged. Tshering Chednga literally means five long living sisters. The five sisters are honoured as the Deities of Longevity as well as the principle protective goddesses of Kagyu school of Buddhism, since the time they were adopted by Himalaya’s epic poet and great adept Jetsun Milarepa. 2 The incidence, which was made into this play of Milarepa and Tshering Chednga, took place when he was at a place in Nepal called Chubar near present day Bhagtapur. He was then in contemplation and reciting mantras.
The five goddess-sisters are as follows. (1) Tashi Tshering Tsheyi Wangchugma, white in colour, holds a vase containing nectar of long life in her left hand and a nine-pointed vajra in her right hand and rides on a white lioness. (2) Thingyi Zhelzangma, blue in colour, holds a magic divination mirror in her left hand and a white stick with streamers in her right hand and rides on a kyang. (3) Miyo Langzangma, golden in colour, holds a vessel of gifts of sumptuous food in her right hand and rides on a tiger. (4) Chodpen Drizangma, red in colour, holds a divination arrow in her right hand and a chest of wish-fulfilling jewels in her left hand and rides a red hind. (5)Taykar Drozangma, green in colour, holds a bushel of grass in right hand and rides on a dragon.
Part 1: Milarepa and Rock Demons
The spirits of that place (Chubar) described as drag sinmo or the rock demons come to distract him from his spiritual pursuit hoping that he will be dissuaded from the path. The rock demons dance around Milarepa. Their ferocious faces, vicious dances and display of teeth and claws convey their hostilities towards Milarepa until he pacifies them. They fail to disturb him from his unassailable composure. There is an exchange of views between Milarepa and the rock demons before his wisdom-laden words lead them to their transformation. A sample of dialogue songs are paraphrased from the biography of Milarepa.
Part 2: Milarepa and Enchantresses
In the next stage, meditation of Milarepa is punctuated by the appearance of another five spirits, three in the form of irresistible beauties, one as a skeleton (kangrus) and the last one with the face of a wolf. As with the rock demons, these individuals also have a dialogue with Milarepa before they are transformed by his teachings.
Part 3: Milarepa and Tshering Chednga
In the final stage, Milarepa encounters the five goddess-sisters called Tshering Chedgna, who were, according to the biography of Milarepa, converted as positive forces by Guru Rinpoche in the eighth century. The Tshering Chednga sisters fall ill due to the polluting effect of roasting of yak meat by herdsmen of the area. So theycome to Milarepa to seek medication. They also express their desire to unleash punishment for this irreverent act which led to their illness. But Milarepa restrains them from their anger and invokes compassion in them. The five sisters then seek further teachings from Milarepa and, finally, they conduct Milarepa to their celestial abode.
The dance of Milarepa and Tshering Chednga with their respective mounts, viz. dragon, lioness, hind, kyang (Tibetan wild horse) and a tiger was not changed, although the mounts are no longer represented in the dance with their respective head fixed to the garment of each goddess. The dance steps are old ones that originated in Gayden village in Ura valley. However, other parts (1 and 2) are new dances introduced according to the biography of Milarepa.
Dance of Deities
The dance is dedicated to all the principal protector deities of dharma (choesung), or dharmapalas, as conceived by HH Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Chodra. In all, the principal deities and the cast of entourage of these deities will form a dance troupe of thirty three. Principle deities enumerated by HH the Je Khenpo 3 combining a class of deities known as degyed (sde brgyad = eight groups) with Mazadamsum and Magoen Chamdrelsum are: (1) Yeshey Goenpo, (2) Palden Lhamo Dudsolma, (3) Laygoen Jarog Dongchen, (4) Mamo Ekazati (also known as nag sungma or Dorji Throdongma), (5) Zachog Gyalpo Rahula (also known as Zadud Rahula), (6) Damchen Dorji Legpa, (7) Wangchug Chenpo, (8) Dud kyi Goenpo, (9) Chogyal laskyi Shinje, (10) Ludud Nagaraza, (11) Tsengyi Goenpo Begtse (also known as Chamsing), (12) Nodjin Zhangyon, (13) Shelging Gyalpo Pe Har, (14) Gomo, (15) Gynyen Jagpa Melen (also known in Tibet as Ge Nyen Chingyikarwa).
Lhamo Remati has a retinue of four deities, Palden Lhamo has a retinue of three deities and Goenpo Jarog Donchen’s retinues consist of three deities. Damchen Dorji Legpa will appear as a retinue-emanation of Dudkyi Goenpo. The rest of the principle deities – namely (1) Yeshey Goenpo, (2) Mamo Eka Zati, (3) Zachen Drangsong Rahula, (4) Wangchug Chenpo, (5) Shinje Choegyi Gyalpo, (6) Ludud Nagaraza, (7) Tsengyi Goenpo Begtse, (8) Nodjin Goen Zhangyod, (9) Shelging Pehar, (10) Gomo, and (11) Gynyen Jagpa Melen – will appear with a retinue-emanation each.
The dancers of the principal deities like Palden Lhamo, Jarog Dongchen, Lhamo Remati, Yeshey Goenpo, Damchen Dorji Legpa, Drangsong Rahula, eight other deities and their retinue-emanations (trulpa) will be monks of the Central Monastic Body because these roles are traditionally carried out by monks.
Description of appearances of the deities is found in Kuenkhen Padma Karpo’s volume cha of his written works.5 This can be illustrated with his detailed account of Palden Lhamo’s physical profile which cannot be replicated completely in the mask dance. For instance, a flavor of the description of the appearance of Palden Lhamo contained in the text can be found in the following. Black like a dark cloud, fairly thin with four arms holding various weapons and skull-cup, yellowish hair with snakes around her head, sun blazing from her navel, blossoms decorating her ears, snake swinging from her right ear, lion with red mane swinging down her left ear, red eyes as though intoxicated by drinks, a dead human held between her four teeth, wet elephant hide as her upper garment, wet cattle hide as her lower garment. Another example is that of Lhamo Remati’s physical descriptions in the same text by Kuenkhen Padma Karpo (see page 37-43). She is accompanied in the dance by four main retinues.
It was not feasible to reproduce the complex costumes described in the text for all of these deities. But masks and several parts of ornaments of these deities, and the clothes retinues wear were designed according to this particular text. The masks of the dancers of Ma Goen Chamdrel Sum have been carved copying those in custody at Punakha and Thimphu Dzongs, with appropriate improvements.
The principle deities will appear in phego (a loose brocade tunic). However, given the criterion of indigenizing the festival costumes, Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival has moved away from the use of silk brocades from China made into traditional phegho in all cases. Phegho is a replica of Chinese Imperial court costumes. The principle that was adopted by the festival designer Karma Ura was that in the case of Dance of Deities, the costume of retinues should follow the traditional Bhutanese iconographic details seen in wall paintings and thangkas. Retinues are portrayed in the dance in iconographical fashion of luminescent skin colours such as blue, red, black, green and white. Materials used best reflect the divine form that is neither solid nor light.
Goenpo Jarog Dongchen and his three retinues will be shown with wings, as seen in their iconographies. The wings were made out of coloured rooster feathers.6 The costumes and colours of Goenpo Jarog Dongchen and his three main retinues are based loosely on Vol. Da of a very popular compendium used in the Central Monastic Body.
Dance of the Heroes
The Dance of the Heroes is structured on the classical notion of a hero. According to this notion, a hero is someone who lives to tell the tale of his conquest or of his struggle. Many of those who undertake great endeavours do not survive to tell their stories. In this sense, the essential difference between a hero and those who are not is the fact that the hero returns to perpetuate his legacy. A person who responsibly, bravely and ably bears the burden of a cause, and who by providence lives to tell his story, is a hero.
Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is prepared primarily to retrace and retell the story of great deeds, sacrifices and bravery of heroes in three parts: The Farewell of the Heroes, The Combat of the Heroes and The Return of the Heroes. There has been proportionately greater investment in Dance of the Heroes in terms of resources compared to any other dance in the festival. With creative new costumes and choreography, Dance of the Heroes tells the tale of a heroes’ journey and return in three parts.
Part 1: Farewell of the Heroes
The Farewell of the Heroes is a dance depicting the departure of a hero and his combatants. This dance mimics in a musical way the departure of the troops into hostile territories against uncompromising enemies into the subtropical jungles of Bhutan’s southern hills. For decades, various militant outfits were involved in a secessionist fight with the Government of India. As they were pushed into the fringes, they took shelter in the territories of Bhutan in the early 1990s. At its peak, as many as thirty militant camps were built in Bhutan that were used both as training grounds and launching pads of the militant’s offensive against the Indian states of Assam and Bengal.
Faced with their hostile presence, which both questioned Bhutan’s security and threatened law and order in Assam and Bengal, the Royal Government of Bhutan initiated various rounds of talks to persuade these encroachers to leave Bhutan. These efforts proved futile. As their presence here became increasingly threatening, the Royal Government of Bhutan finally gave a deadline for them to leave. However, neither the United Liberation Front of Asom nor the Kamtapur Liberation Organization obliged. On December 13 2003, the lighting-fast campaign against the militants hiding in the jungles of southern Bhutan was launched.
Farewell of the Heroes is therefore a dramatized commemoration of this event that took place a few days before December 13, 2003. The anxiety and the tension writ large on the face of the combatants evoke the mood at that time. A peaceful nation, Bhutan had not witnessed any battle since the Duar Wars of 1864-65. The stylized march shows the combatants prowl and crouch, as if on the lookout for ambush and other such unseen dangers. The soldiers are seen occasionally back tracking on instances of noises that they hear.
Although the combatants bore modern arms in the military expedition, as a symbolic performance, they wield shields and brandish swords, rather like the famed Pazaps, the medieval combatants. Advances into dangerous territories are accompanied by sounds of brass trumpets. Bending and standing in slow motion are accompanied by the rhythmic beats of wood. Occasionally, there is also clanging of the cymbals that echo the rituals that were performed in numerous monasteries in the country to provide spiritual aid to the combatants.
In Farewell of the Heroes, costume with innovative bold appliqué designs, along with red masks, are meant to depict, according to traditional colour symbolism, both danger and enlightenment (when worn by monks and lamas) at the same time. Red has been used all over Asia as the colour of power, aggression, or danger. Masks were very often modeled on the face of the performers so as to give realistic expressions of readiness and alarm. Helmets were individually designed, as were the flaps fitted on their sides. Each gho was designed individually with geometric schemes that are neither Chinese nor Western in character.
Part 2: Combat of the Heroes
The second of the three dances is Combat of the Heroes. Here the dress that the heroes wear is a replica of what was worn in the battle. Ghos that the combatants wore led to the name by which they became known, Green Company. They are of the same material.
The soldiers used long socks and boots during the actual expedition in 2003. But for ceremonial reason, the combatants wear the traditional tsho-lham, the ordinary knee length brocade boots with leather soles. This type of shoes is now replaced by mass produced imported shoes, except during formal occasions. The heroes are equipped with swords and shields in the same way as medieval Bhutanese combatants. In addition to ghos, the medieval combatants wore crisscrossed silken bolts of various colours. Apart from their aesthetic appeal, they served to deflect arrows and swords. Silken bolts were worn across the shoulders like straps. However, in Combat of the Heroes, silk ribbons have been replaced by taam. The verse they yell in this dance is the same one used in the pazap show at Punakha Festival, thus making this dance a natural extension of the proud martial commemoration of Zhabdrung’s time.
Combat of the Heroes is quite long, lasting nearly 25 minutes. It depicts hand to hand combat as well as marches and retreats. The soldiers dance in a formation of two columns as well as in circle after coming out in a dramatized march. At the climax of the combat, the audience can hear shrieks and screams. At the same time, the audience can notice the motion of slicing the air by swords in all four directions.
The swords were cast in Trashi Yangtse and polished into shinny blades by the soldiers themselves. The shields were cast at the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival Unit after an innovative breakthrough and can withstand, although the material is new, the same heavy impacts of sword attacks and arrow shots as an original shield of rhino hide.
Part 3: Return of the Heroes
The last dance in this series is called the Return of the Heroes. In this dance, the mask is one of joyous whiteness, symbolizing peace after meeting the objectives of the expedition, which is dislodging the enemy and returning home safely. Because they return from a successful campaign, the combatants are received with ceremonial music to the ground. The dance is very light and celebratory. Like Combat of the Heroes, it is about 25 minutes long. They come out first by leaping into the air and praying to the three precious gems, the Buddha, the Monk Community and the Teaching with folded hands that is thrown up once on the forehead, once on the chest and lastly, on the crown of the head. After this section, the dance breaks into a very light one, almost peaceful, seeming like a virile folk dance.
Towards the end, the dance incorporates dramatized movements of offering and libation in thanksgiving to all the deities of the four directions. With Vajrakilas that they wield, obstacles and adversities are destroyed. The Vajrakila, known as the ultimate symbol of overcoming obstacle, is held high in the hands of the combatants before it cuts through the air and pins down adversaries to the ground with its flaming tip. The combatants thereafter clap their hands as a gesture of destruction of all the obstacles. The right hand symbolizes the heat or the sun while the left hand symbolizes the crystal moon. When the sun and moon clash, everything is turned into ashes and particles. They are destroyed in the same way as the obstacles against the Kingdom are destroyed, thus heralding the path to peace. The dance ends with the display of the flipside of the shields where flowers are painted. The shield or the combative protection is thus shown as necessary for the safekeeping of the flower, a symbol of peace.
Dance of Vision of Bodhisattvas
The mask dance of the key historical personalities in the Bhutanese history consists of four important figures. Although there are many figures of such renown since the time of Guru Rinpoche, the choice made was limited by the time available to produce costumes and masks. Thus, (1) Guru Rinpoche, (2) Kuenkhen Gyalwa Longchen Rabjam Drimed Ozer (1308-1363), the most renowned philosopher, writer and historian of Nyingma tradition; (3) the great cultural figure of Bhutan, Terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) and his two disciples; (4) and lastly, the great unifier and founder of the country Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594-1651) and his two immediate disciples who perpetuated the system he founded were selected. The parade of four of these divine figures and their associates provides an opportunity for the audience to remember their legacies by way of a close encounter.
The first to be welcomed to the mask dance ground is Guru Rinpoche. He is accompanied by the two consorts who lived in this country though they died in Tibet. They are Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal in Tibetan dress and Menmo Tashi Chidren in kira.7 King Hamray (Ham Ras) was more famously known as the father of Khidren (khyi ‘dren), who was renamed by Jomo (lady) Yeshey Tshogyal as Tashi Chidron (Trashi sPyi sdron). Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal was in Bhutan meditating at various holy places such as Singye Dzong in the East and Paro Taktsang in the West. Likewise, Khandro Menmo Tashi Chidren seem to have followed Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal since her teenage years in Singye Dzong area. Menmo Tashi Chidren met Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal as a sixteen year old princess of King Hamray. Menmo Tashi Chidren was the concluding consort in the cycle of Vajrakila performed by Guru Rinpoche and she is symbolically portrayed as the tigress in the painting of Dorji Drolo. The painting shows Guru Rinpoche in the form of Dorji Drolo and Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal as Lhamo Remati. Both Guru and Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal are shown riding on a tigress. The tigress represents Menmo Tashi Chidren according to the biography of Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal.
The Tsechu (festivals) of Bhutan are held in honour of Guru Rinpoche who, while propagating the Buddhist doctrines, took on various manifestations to overcome obstacles and oppositions. The term Tsechu literally translates as the tenth day of the month, the date on which Guru Rinpoche pledged to return for the benefit of sentient beings every month.
The next figure who appears in the Tshechu ground is Longchen Rabjam (1308-1364). He came to Bhutan to escape the conflicts in Tibet during the 14th century. His writings on that period allude strongly to the invasion of Tibet by the Mongols. In Bhutan, he found the tranquility necessary for him to study, reflect and write treatises while staying in the eight places he founded such as Shingkhar Dechenling, Chume Tharpaling, Shar Kuenzaling, Khotokha Rinchenling, Paro Samtenling, etc. Among his vast literary and philosophical writings, Longchen Rabjam left a long poem praising Bumthang which then included the district of Tongsa. This may be considered the first grand poem, consisting of geographical, agricultural, environmental, social, and religious information, by a renowned figure with Bhutan as a specific object of eulogy.8 In the same poem, he uses the compound phrase ‘yul-mkhar’ to suggests that villages and a palace existed next to Bumthang Kurje, thus giving brief but tantalizing evidence that the palace of Sindharaza located at Chakhar did seem to have been around during his time.
The next person to be welcomed to the ground is Terton Pema Lingpa who was the incarnation of Longchen Rabjam. He is the ancestor of the Royal Family of Bhutan. Pema Lingpa is accompanied in the procession by his two immediate spiritual descendents. Khenpo Tshulthrim, his main disciple, was reborn or incarnated as Pema Lingpa’s own son who was the founder of the lineage of Gangtey Trulku. The second person who appears alongside Pema Lingpa at the ground is the regent appointed by him to carry on his Peling tradition when he passed away.9 The regent he appointed was Trulku Chogden Gonpo, himself an incarnation of Terton Dorji Lingpa (1346-1405), one of the five great tertons or treasure revealers, enumerated as such by first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye (1813-1899). Pema Lingpa too is enumerated as one of the five Kings of tertons. Pema Lingpa is famed as the revealer of various treasures mostly hidden in Bhutan by Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal in the ninth century. According to her biography,10 Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal transcribed the teachings given to her by Guru Rinpoche. After Guru left for Singyul, she came back to Bhutan and deposited his teachings and other treasures around the country, including Khenpalung. Later, from the 12th till the 15th centuries, many tertons from Tibet came to the country to retrieve them. Pema Lingpa, a Bhutanese, was one of the greatest among them.
The last figure in this procession is Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the prince of Druk Ralung whose ruling family line had over many centuries maintained matrimonial alliances with prominent families of western Bhutan. He was the incarnation of the great Kagyu master Kuenkhen Pema Karpo (1527-1592). He is accompanied by his two principal Bhutanese disciples. The first one is Goen Wobtsho Tenzin Drugyal (1591-1656) who was the Chant Master and Treasurer of Druk Ralung long before he returned to Bhutan with the Zhabdrung. It was he who had to oversee the transition to a stable nationhood when the Zhabdrung entered permanent retreat in 1651. The other Bhutanese disciple appearing with the Zhabdrung Rinpoche is Pekar Jungney (1604-1673), a devout follower of Zhabdrung and the first Je Khenpo of Bhutan.
These Bodhisattvas are accompanied by the dakas and dakinis who dance around them as they descend on the performance ground. It is an opportunity for the audience to visualize these Bodhisattvas and have an encounter. The prayer composed by His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is set to music and sung as a backdrop in a fitting end to the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival.
Apart from the mask dances, various folk dances will be performed during the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. Bhutanese folk dances are considerably more colloquial and flexible than the mask dances. Apart from their everyday themes, their subject matters include important personalities and occasions. A series of folk dances at the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival will serve as interludes between the mask dances. Performed mostly by members of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts, several folk songs were especially composed for the occasion by Karma Ura; the former Director of National Library, Mr Gyonpo Tshering; and retired Dungpa Damchoe Lhendup. Songs composed by HH the Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Choedra will also be performed.
There are a few special songs that were dedicated to the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. Firstly, the song titled Azhe Lhamo was adapted for the occasion from the original composition that is resonant with versions of Azhe Lhamo from Merak and Sakteng to Shingkhar and Ura valleys. Azhe Lhamo usually has journey motif of the settlers of that particular area. For instance, the Azhe Lhamo of Shingkhar and Ura valleys are about the journey undertaken by this clan towards these villages where they finally settled. Likewise, the Azhe Lhamo performed in Merak and Sakteng valleys is loosely about the journey undertaken by Ama Jomo, the archetypal mother and leader of the tribe of Merak and Sakteng. The Azhe Lhamo that will be performed at Dochula is about the descent of Goddesses from heaven to Gangkar Puensum and from thence unto Dochula to meet the audiences gathered at the festival. The tune is based on the Azhe Lhamo song of Shingkhar and Ura valleys. But a twist has been added in its tune along with new steps in the dance.
The other song that was composed especially for the occasion is Neyang Dochula, meaning the holy place of Dochula. Composed by Karma Ura, this song describes the auspicious and geo-strategic location of Dochula and the view of many wondrous sites in all four directions. In addition, this song evokes the historical association that Dochula pass has with various personalities such as Drukpa Kuenley, Drupthob Jimba Gyaltshen and Terton Drugdra Dorji. Lastly, it also celebrates the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival, Druk Wangyel Lhakhang and the 108 Khangzang Chortens, all founded with gracious patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother.
However, the most remarkable song is a prayer that His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
composed as it came to him spontaneously during a reflection he had at Paro Takstang (Tiger Nest) on February 21, 2010. His Majesty was taking a daylong retreat at Paro Taktshang’s holy inner cave where Guru Rinpoche, Khandu Yeshey Tshogyal and many other enlightened masters meditated. The prayer came to His Majesty the King in an uninterrupted moment of inspiration and he jotted it down instantly. Although it is a long poetic composition by His Majesty the King, only excerpts of it has been set to music by Karma Ura. The tune has been inspired directly by a contemporary Chinese musician, He Xun Tian. This hymn like song by His Majesty the King will be sung when the Dance of Vision of Boddhisattvas such as Guru Rinpoche, Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam, Terton Pema Lingpa and Zhabdrung Rinpoche is enacted.
2012 Festivals of Bhutan