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Lama Dances at Thongsa Monastery, Kalimpong

The dates for my Sikkim trip were arranged so that I could experience the Lama Dances at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim.

Information on the net was sketchy, but some websites mentioned that Rumtek monks, a part of the Karmapa order, perform dances 2 days prior to Losar – which was on March 5th.

After arriving in Gangtok on the 1st, I headed out to Rumtek monastery nearly 90 minutes of winding roads away from Gangtok, to confirm the dance schedules. There I met unexpected paramilitary guards…and a sparsely populated monastery.

Much to my disappointment, I was told this year the Losar celebration had been brought forward by a month and the celebrations had taken place in the previous month!!

The focal point of my entire journey had suddenly disappeared!

But nothing could be done about this disappointing news so I went ahead and enjoyed the rest of the monasteries. The unexpected surprises at the other monasteries more than compensated for this loss …and soon the disappointment was forgotten.

On the final leg of the journey – on an impromptu detour to Kalimpong – the driver took me to an old but small active monastery.

A chat with the monks revealed the final delightful surprise that this journey offered: monk dance practice that evening!!!

I had begun the monastic journey with disappointing news – but ever since, serendipity had done its best to make it up to me…. this was turning out to be a journey of anti-climaxes followed by climaxes!

The final masked dances were scheduled for the 14th and 15th, by which time I would be far away…but the practice sessions offered me a small slice of an otherwise unavailable experience. So, with a grumbling driver, I returned to the monastery after dinner, to view the practice in the dark.

The images that follow have been taken without flash using prime lenses that were sometimes slow and blurry. These and are not great photographs but they provide a good view of the dance poses.

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As I reviewed the pictures, I notice the similarity between some of the dance movements and martial arts …. a connection that I had forgotten about….

Back to Sikkim Diaries


March 2011

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