Dance of the Heroes with Six Kinds of Ornaments (Guan Drug Pawo)

Costume: Five kinds of bone ornaments on the body, a small drum (damaru) and bell (drilbu) as sixth ornament.

This dance depicts the high tantric deities delivering the sentient beings into salvation from their sufferings by their dance of mahamudra and the song of Mahayana teachings. As they are dauntless, they are called Pawos or Heroes.


Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Tungam)

Costume: Beautiful brocade dresses, boots and terrifying masks.

This dance is performed to deliver sentient beings into Zangto Pelri. Here Guru Rinpoche takes the form of Dorji Dragpo or “the fierce thunderbolt”.

This dance has a deep significance. The main god performs a symbolic sacrifice of evil spirits with the phurbu (ritual dagger) after they are enclosed in a box. He thus saves the world and at the same time delivers the spirits into salvation.

Dance of the Stag and the Hounds (Shawa Shachi)

This dance represents the conversion of a hunter named Gonpo Dorji to Buddhism by the great saint Jetsun Milarepa (1040-1123).

Long ago, when Jetsun Milarepa was meditating on the border between Nepal and Tibet, he heard a man shouting and a man barking. He went out of his cave and saw a red-haired trembling and sweating stag. To allay its fears, he sang a soothing song. The stag thus knelt close to him. Next, a hound came running full of fiery wrath but Milarepa again sang the song and the hound sat next to him pacified. At last, a hunter came to the scene. He was surprised at the scene and warning Milarepa of dire consequences shot an arrow at him but the arrow broke into pieces and the bowstring was cut. Gonpo Dorji, the hunter thus repented of his sins and gained realization.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with Drums (Nga Ging)

It depicts how the flesh and blood of the vanquished Nyulemas are offered to the Enlightened Ones (Ringzinlhas). The dance shows the burial of the defeated evil forces with burial dances and the beating of drums.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with Sword (Dri-Ging)

The Dri Ging dance shows how the protecting deities separate the Nyulemas from their life, fortune and wealth; purify their karma and defilements and deliver their souls to the pure heavens.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with Sticks (Jug-Ging)

Costume: Knee-length skirts and masks, sticks, different animal masks.

This is the visual representation of the Ging (emanations) of Guru Rinpoche subduing the Jyungpo Nyulema (obstacles to the Dharma) demons through their clairvoyance. The Nyulema demons may flee in the three worlds, but the Ging with the stick find them, catch them with the hook of compassion, beat them with the stick of wisdom and tie them up with the noose of compassion.

Religious Song (Chhoeshey)

Costume: It is performed to commemorate the opening of the gateway to Tsari Mountain (eastern Tibet), for pilgrimages by Drogoen Tsangpa Jarey (1161-1211), founder of the Drukpa School.

Legend has it that when Tsangpa Jarey arrived at Tsari, the guardian deity of the Lake of Turquoises turned itself into an enormous frog, preventing him from going further. When his three friends joined him and were clueless as what to do, Tsangpa Jarey jumped on the frog and performed a dance. The frog thereafter turned into a rock but the saint impressed his footprint on it. Thus, the frog was subdued.

Dance of the Eight Kinds of Spirits (De Gye)

Costume: Knee-length yellow skirt, animal mask

De Gye are the spirits possessing the three realms of existence: Heaven, earth and the underworld.

These spirits – the Lha (Gods), Dud (Devil), Tsen (Demon), Shinje (Lord of Death), Mamo (Fearful demon), Gyelpo (Ruling Spirit), Nodjin (Harmful spirit), and Sadag (Demons of Naga) constantly torment sentient beings.

However, protective deities such as Pal Yeshey Gonpo transform into the chief of these spirits and subdue them thus recovering the peace and happiness of the followers of Buddha. The dancers are the incarnation of the gods themselves.

Dance of the Drum from Dramitse (Dramitse Ngacham)

Costume: Knee-length yellow skirt, animal masks. The dancers hold a big drum and drumstick.

Pema Lingpa’s son Lama Kunga Gyeltshen had a vision of Guru Rinpoche and his abode, Zangto Pelri where he saw the latter transformed into one hundred kinds of peaceful and terrifying deities performing a dance holding drums and drumsticks. When he returned to Dramitse, he established the tradition of the dance. In seeing this dance, the black demons are vanquished and the white gods reign supreme. Human beings who witness the dance gain Buddhahood.

Dance of the Black Hats (Shanag)

Costume: Large black hat, felt boots, long colorful brocade gown, no mask

The Black Hat dancers assume the form of Yogis who bring beings or spirits who cannot be subdued through peaceful means to the realm of the Buddha through tantric acts of compassionate anger. They have the power of killing and recreating life. It is also known as the “gar” dance.