Cham Dance Buddhist Ceremony in Pin Valley

posted in: India, Photography, Travel | 2

Cham Dance at Kungri Monastery in the Himalaya

This article revolves around the amazing and unique Buddhist Cham Dance that takes place at Kungri Monastery in a remote area of the Himalaya called Pin Valley in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh State of northern India and is undertaken by the Buddhist Monks of the Monastery, young and old.
 
beginning of cham dance ceremony in himalaya
Let the festival begin
 
Kungri Monastery in the Pin Valley region of Spiti is a Tibetan buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect, it was built around 1330 A.D and is the second largest monastery in Spiti. Situated high up on a hill overlooking the Pin river it affords majestic views up and down the Valley. And that is not all, it is also known for its annual Cham Dance.
 
opening ceremony of cham dance
Opening Ceremony
The Cham Dance is a Buddhist festival, a masked costumed dance that the local monks take part in whereby traditional drums are beaten, horns are blown and mantra’s recited as masked monks dance around the Monastery courtyard to the wonderment of the local residents.
 
Masked monks re-enact incidents from the life of Padmasambhava
 
The Cham Dance is considered an act of meditation and an offering to the Gods with merit given to all those who perceive them. These dances often offer moral instruction to us mere mortals relating to one of the main Buddhist tenets of compassion.
 
Buddhist Devotee
 
Not only do the local Buddhists come to watch the Cham Festival but others travel from far and wide to witness the two day event. Prior to the opening ceremony, stalls outside the monastery are heaving with customers bartering over Himalayan shawls, clothes, fancy jewelry and other haberdashery items. It’s a real day out that the everyone makes the most of.
 
 
Locals from Pin Valley
 
Hitching a ride
 
The cultural religious festival of Cham at Kungri Monastery took place this year 2011 during the month of July on the 9th and 10th. As for 2012 it’s hard to say what the actual dates will be as it changes with the Tibetan Lunar calendar. Finding out this year was quite a trying job, locals seem to have a vague idea but your best bet is to speak to a lama in one of the local gompa’s (monasteries) and they will consult the magic book!
 
 
Demon Mask
 
masked dancer at the cham dance
 
Scary Masks
 
Kungri Monastery is located some distance up Pin Valley which in turn is situated within Spiti Valley and even though I was there during the summer month of July the weather was overcast, windy and very cool. It is a high altitude valley in the Indian himalaya so even in summer if the sun does’nt show itself prepared to get wrapped up to some degree.
 
kungri monastery cham dance venue
 
Kungri Monastery Cham Dance Venue
 
 
Spectators at the Cham Dance
 
 
Rosary Beads
 
masked dancers at the cham dance
 
Masked Dancers
 
audience watching the cham dance
 
The Audience at the Cham Dance
 
cham dance band playing music
Cham Dance Band
 
Pin Valley itself is a steep sided valley with towering mountains either side of the Pin River, the rock formations are astounding, outlandish to say the least and you can also see a variety of wildlife along with the huge domesticated Yak. At the end of the valley is the village of Mud where if you want to go any further its a matter of trekking for several days over high altitude passes to reach a metaled road over in Parvati valley.
The village of Mud itself is full of character and characters.
 
local residents at cham dance
Local Residents
 
 
 
Girl from Mud
 
More information about the Cham Dance can be found here over at Wiki


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2 Responses

  1. Senad R
    |

    Very nice Antony, superb photography. It's amazing part of the world, lucky you my friend.

  2. Noushka,
    |

    Hi Anthony!
    Sorry I couldn't come espalier but blog problems came up then my mail box spammed several friends' comments!
    The joys of blogging!!
    Anyhow, your pictures are incredible, they makes me travel beautifully!
    A great reportage!
    Never thought of filming?? 🙂
    Happy new Year to you too and many more photos of this quality… A selfish wish! LOL!
    Keep well and travel safely!

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