Day 9 – May 11 – Tiji Festival second day

In the morning, monks were back in the monastery performing pujas, which continue into the afternoon's dancing.

We took the opportunity to visit one of the monasteries' museums, a dark room that held a number of historic treasures including manuscripts written in gold on bamboo leaves. A number of these had been recovered from cave dwellings in other parts of the valley.

The second afternoon's dancing was more dramatic than the first. The monk dancers wore elaborate masks and costumes and acted out roles in the action, which was like an exorcism of the evil spirits that might stand in the way of crops, world peace and other good things. The evil spirits were led to gather in a small effigy, which was then purged first by dancers in skeleton costumes and then killed by the tsowo performing delicate surgery with ceremonial knives.

Equally interesting was the crowd, which was predominantly local people of all ages. People were very involved, sometimes calling out at key times. An old man was selected from the crowd to hold the effigy in the dance with the skeletons.

On this second day, they used a newer thangka backdrop representing Padmasambhava in eight of his different forms. A half hour before the dance, a man brought the wrapped-up thangka out of the king's palace to the sound of horns and cymbals. Believing it to have magical properties, the crowd reached to touch the precious cloth.

The action continued after the thanka was unfurled. A stream of people came across the podium to give their hats and in some cases their babies to a Nepali police officer in camouflage fatigues, who touched them to the thanka and returned them. Nowhere but Nepal would a member of the military be so integrally involved in this traditional spiritual ritual.

At the end of the afternoon, police and volunteers held out the thanka so that the whole crowd could file under it for another blessing.

After dinner, I went back for a few minutes to see the school dance performances. I had unfortunately missed the previous night, when the more traditional folk dances were presented. This night featured mostly adaptations of popular Indian songs and dances. Even so, it was interesting to see how a small town puts together a show of amateur performances of its young people. The crowd was larger than for the monk's dance, almost filling the courtyard.

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