We timed our trip to attend the three-day Tiji (or Tenchi) Festival in Lo Manthang. This is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist festival that is devoted to removing evil obstacles, thereby ensuring everything from summer rains to world peace. It is a commemoration of the triumph of Padmanasvara (Guru Rimpoche) over the forces of evil.
Even before the festival, the monks of Lo Manthang's four monasteries were busy performing pujas to the accompaniment of Tibetan bass trumpets. With a length and bore similar to the bass trombone I used to play, they are typically played on the pedal tone (fundamental) and second and third harmonics. The monks accompany their chanting with mudras (formulaic hand gestures) that can also be seen in Buddhist art works.
The dances are a reenactment of the myth of Dorje Shunu, who was reborn to make a series of dances to defeat the forces of evil. The lead monk dancer or tsowo plays the part of Dorje Shunu to do various ritual acts of purification and exorcism. The tsowo prepares for the ceremony with three months of solitary meditation.
The dancing started in the mid-afternoon and continued until dark. This first day's dancing was relatively simple, with mostly slow movements in a circle representing a mandala around the tsowo. The monks wore brightly colored robes but no masks on this first day.