Magical Mask Dances in Bumthang, Bhutan

We visited Bhutan in the Autumn of 2015 on a trip organised by photosafari. We did a cross country trip from Paro and drove to the east of Bhutan and exit at Guwahati in India. We stopped at Kurjey Lhakhang Monastery, Bumthang for the Mask Dance.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is known for its mask dances which are an integral part of the country’s remarkable cultural and religious traditions. Dances like every country in the world have its unique forms and styles which define its culture.

The dancers wear wooden or papier mache masks that are colourfully painted and richly decorated.

Performed by Buddhist monks and laymen, the dances take place annually in temples, monasteries, and important administrative centres for up to five days.

People believe that by watching these dances they can purify their souls and bring themselves good luck.

To preserve and promote the cultural dances of Bhutan, the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) was established in 1954 by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Initially, it was established as the Institute of Performing Arts and in 1967, it got promoted to become RAPA. It is a government body and comes under the Department of Culture, located in Thimpul.

The academy trains young dancers in the various cultural dance styles. Not just dance, but traditional songs are also promoted and taught to the budding musicians. The dancers associated with the academy hold the cultural performances throughout the year on special requests.

Mask dancers of Bumthang
The dances are usually performed in the monasteries courtyard
The mask dances are performed during festivals
A group of monks were watching the mask dance performance

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