Villagers question the sustainability of annual Nya lhakhang Tshechu – Punakha

The locals of Tsephu-Khawakha Chiwog in Punakha’s Toewang Gewog are concerned about the preservation of their village’s tradition. They are afraid their one-day annual Tshechu at the Nya Lhakhang may not continue for much longer due to lack of funds to pay the mask dancers. The Nya Lhakhang hires mask dancers from Datong Goenpa in Shenga Bjemi Gewog for their private Tshechu.

The lay monks from Shenga Bjemi Gewog who serve as the mask dancers perform 10 mask dances during the day-long Tshechu.

The mask dance team consists of thirty men, including support staff. The group is paid Nu 40,000 for the day. The payment system was introduced in 2015.

According to local belief, the Tshechu was established by one of the lineages of Dado Truelku, who brought his mask dancers to the current Tshechu ground to subdue evils. There are no written records to confirm this.

The Nya Lhakhang is located on a site believed to have been blessed by Lam Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century. The one-day Tshechu was held last Thursday.

“We are concerned about the sustainability of this culture. We cannot hire the mask dancers without paying Nu 40,000. And it is difficult for us to pay the amount as we are farmers. We do not have income sources other than agriculture,” said Drali, a resident.

“We do not have enough financial resources to pay them. Therefore, there is a high chance that this Tshechu culture might not sustain,” said another resident, Pem.

One of the mask dancers stated that the payment they receive is used to cover their daily wages.

The locals of Tsephu-Khawakha Chiwog are hopeful that either the gewog administration or the district administration will provide support to preserve their cherished tradition.

“From now on, the gewog will try to manage the fund for this event. And we will request the district administration if the budget is not sufficient from the gewog. The district administration is the only place where we can request it. We will propose it in detail and will try to help the public,” said Ugyen Karma, Toewang Gup.

A proposal was made to the district administration; however, an official from the district administration says there are no rules or separate budget for such local festivals.

The official added the district administration will look into the matter if such budget is made available in the future.

Until such a time comes, the 25 households in Tshepu-Khawakha Chiwong will have to bear all the costs.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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