Image intensive for those with limited bandwidth. Keeping the photos small. You can click on them to see the bigger version but that will lead you to the flickr site where I am keeping the photos. So if you wanna view the bigger version, just use the open new tab or window rather than clicking the images.
PS : sorry about not processing the photos on PS, am a little lazy to clean up the photos, so you are getting the images unprocessed, just resized and converted straight from raw with the dust spots and all.
Early September 2009
A high lama visited the village of Korzok at Tsomoriri and they decided to perform a Cham dance only the day before. The Cham dance or Masked dance is only performed by the monks and suppose to give merits to the audience, the monks are dressed in beautifully made ornamental costumes and masks of animal deities.
I happened to intrude into the preparations for the cham dance while everyone else, the villagers and the tourists including some annoyingly and irritating Indian ‘press’ photographer (you know who you are) and a few other rich European photographers with huge camera set-up waiting in the courtyard for the performance. The monks were kind enough to let me stay on and photograph them dressing up for the dance. The whole setup was amazing, everyone went about the preparations, the other monks and a few villagers helping out, dressing the monks in their beautifully intricate and heavy costumes.
The feeling I got from this event : well its more genuine and provincial, more real compared to the other large cham events that is happening in the other places.
The monks preparing for the first cham dance, there are 2 dances or ‘acts’. The first ‘act’ has the monks covered without the deity masks.
Korzok village isn’t really a rich village hence the rather humble setup for the costumes and cham dance setup. However the village use to be quite rich before with the villages having tons of pashmina goats, sheeps and other livestock trading with nomadic changpa people.
A monk all dressed up and ready for the first dance
The two cham masks of animal deities for the second dance. The eyes of the masks were initially covered, before the preparations, the high lama came in to conduct some prayers, summoning the deities at the various altars. Then walked over to the masks performing the prayers, the covers were taken off from the masks.
The caretaker monk in charge overlooking the costumes. He is in charge of the daily evening pujas (prayers) for the gompa and also in charge of the costumes and the chest of cham masks.
Laying out the costume for the first dance
Taking out the deity mask for the second dance. Its eyes were uncovered after some prayers and chanting by the high lamas and the monks before the performance.
The monks all prepared and waiting for the high lama to inaugurate the whole dance by saying prayers and giving offers to the deities gods at the altars. The dressed up monks all gathered at the altars and did some quick chanting before the performance. To my knowledge, they had to summon the spirits or deities before the performance.
The high lama greets all the dancers and proceeds to praying and invoking the gods at the altars and asking for blessings to the performance.
All ready, the monks walking out for the first dance one by one, drumming along the way
The monks out to the courtyard for the first dance while one of the head monks watches on, he co-ordinates the dances.
The dance at Korzok gompa courtyard, quite a big event with the villagers out in their best clothes even though this was a last minute, the event announced and decided only the day before. Word gets out pretty fast here.
The cham dance at Korzok gompa courtyard with audiences from Korzok and nearby villages
The villagers watching, some came from nearby area around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake. All came with their best clothes and beautiful colorful woollen weaved shawls made with the local pashmina wool.
Preparing for the second dance with the deity masks
The monk and his sword awaiting for the mask to be placed on him
Putting on more detailed ornaments, actually takes quite awhile putting on the little details.
The Korzok gompa not really a rich monastery, they still make do with the decorations. The skull ornament is usually craved out from bone but they were inventive to create it from leather.
Waiting for help with his costume for the second dance with the deity mask
During the break for the second dance, one of the villagers offering yummy salted goat butter tea to everyone including myself! Such wonderful people!
Antelope mask deity for the second dance
Dressing up for the second dance, preparing for the heavy deity head mask to be placed upon
The deity mask is incredibly heavy! One of the monks allowed me to carry one of them after the dance.
More ornaments waiting to be dressed up
Second dance over, the last cham dancer returns back to the gompa as the trumpets playing to welcome him back. The trumpets are blown signifying that the dance is over, following the dancers in and out of the gompa chambers
Cham dance over, the monks playing the tibetan trumpets as the high lama proceeds back to his chambers in the gompa
The high lama giving his blessings to the local villagers as he returns to his private resting chambers
Show’s over, the monks taking their instruments and other stuff back
The villagers making their way back home after the cham dance along with their prayer wheels
The locals going home after the cham dance with the frequent sand storm looming over. The ladies dressing in their best clothes, colorful shawls self weaved from the wool they got from their sheep and pashmina goats.