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Monastic dancers at Tongsa Jong [Bhutan]

Monastic dancers at Tongsa Jong [Bhutan]

Photographer: White, John Claude

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1905

Shelfmark: Photo 20/(27)

Item number: 27

Length: 18.2

Width: 30.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of three costumed dancers posed in a courtyard of the Dzong (fort) at Tongsa (Trongsa) in central Bhutan taken by John Claude White in 1905. This is one of a set of photographs documenting White's mission to Bhutan to invest Ugyen Wangchuk, the Penlop (Governor) of Tongsa, with the order of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. This photograph is also reproduced in The National Geographic Magazine (Apr 1914), with the following caption: 'Lamas in their gorgeous silk vestments - Tongsa Jong. These three lamas have assisted at the 'mask dance', and, as it is a religious function, they are attired in their robes of office. Lamas is the name given to those monks who belong to the Northern Buddhist Church, and owe spiritual allegiance to the Dalai Lama at Lhasa in Tibet'. In Bhutan masked dances are the common forms of entertainment during festivals known as Tshechu. These dances involve complex moves and carefully choreographed steps and different masks and costumes for each. The dances are performed in monasteries and have special religious significance. Most of the dances date from medieval times and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elders dressed in bright costumes. Dzongs have a dual function, being part monasteries and part administrative centres.

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