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The Drametse Ngacham (meaning "mask dance of the drums from Drametse", nga means "drum" and cham means "mask dance") [1] is a sacred dance performed in the village of Drametse in eastern Bhutan. [2] It is performed twice a year during the Drametse festival, which occurs on the fifth and tenth months of the Bhutanese calendar. [2] The festival is organized by the Ogyen Tegchok Namdroel Choeling Monastery to honor Padmasambhava, an 8th-century Buddhist master. [2]

A performance of the dance features sixteen masked male dancers and ten musicians. The dancers wear monastic robes and wooden masks with features of animals, both real and mythical. [2] The musicians play "cymbals, trumpets and drums, including the bang nga, a large cylindrical drum, the lag nga, a small hand-held circular flat drum, and the nga chen, a drum beaten with a bent drumstick." [2] They first perform a prayer dance in the soeldep cham, the main shrine, before appearing one by one in the courtyard of the monastery. [2] The dance has two parts: a calm, contemplative part to represent the peaceful deities, and a rapid, athletic part for the wrathful ones. [2]

Performances of the dance have been conducted for almost five centuries. [1] In the late nineteenth century, the dance started spreading to other parts of Bhutan. [1] [3] Today, it is approaching to be something of a national dance for the country, representing the identity of the Bhutanese nation. [3]

The dance was inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008, though it was originally proclaimed in 2005. [2] The original proclamation notes "the number of practitioners is dwindling due to the lack of rehearsal time, the absence of a systematic mechanism to train and honour the dancers and musicians and the gradual decrease in interest among young people." [3]

The Institute of Language and Culture Studies at the Royal University of Bhutan coordinated and implemented a project to preserve and promote the dance. [4] The project was funded by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, through UNESCO. [4] [5] It involved strengthening the training capacities of the monastery, compiling existing documentation, recording videos of the dance, researching its history, and promotional activities. [5] A result of the project was a book about the dance written in English and Dzongkha and an accompanying film. [4] [6]


  1. ^ a b c Shimizu, Yoshi. "The Mask Dance of the Drums from Drametse of Bhutan". Yoshi Shimizu, Photographer. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mask dance of the drums from Drametse - intangible heritage - Culture Sector - UNESCO". Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  3. ^ a b c "The Mask Dance of the Drums from Drametse". Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  4. ^ a b c "Research at the Institute of Language and Culture Studies". Institute of Language and Culture Studies. Archived from the original on March 30, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Japan finances the project "Safeguarding of the Drametse Ngacham"". Retrieved 2016-03-20.
  6. ^ དགྲ་མེད་རྩེ་རྔ་འཆམ། Drametse Ngacham. Semtokha, Bhutan: Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Semtokha, Royal University of Bhutan. 2009. ISBN  978-99936-771-0-9.

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