Dochula resounds to dance and drama
A unique first-time four-hour performance had spectators enthralled throughout
Druk Wangyal Festival Dochula pass, more than 3,000m above sea level, was shrouded in mist as the Druk Wangyal festival unfolded for the first time yesterday in the biting cold.Photos

Notwithstanding the temperature that sometimes dropped below freezing point because of a cloudy sky, the six-hour festival kept the hundreds of people absorbed until the end.

The festival performed for the first time blended creativity and innovation with history and mythology. The average spectator, who expected regular tshechu-like performances were surprised and treated to a variety of dances, which have roots in Bhutanese tradition, but were way different from what is performed in the courtyards of dzongs and lhakhangs.

The performers from the royal Bhutan army gave synchronised performances of army drill like dances to the tune of African sounding drums mixed with dung (trumpets).

The three dances of the heroes depicted the farewell to the Pawos (heroes), their combat dance and the return after victory. Lasting more than an hour, it was the highlight of the festival, with the masks, costumes and weapons they carried created to reflect ancient war heroes and their dances. The fast-paced energetic choreography also went with the mood of the dances, from slow movements to well synchronised rhythms of twisted drill steps.

The music, largely from the polished banga (drum) and dung, amplified the masculine sound needed for the dances. Played on large speakers with stereo sound quality, a little change in the traditional instruments sounds gripping. The festival is also one of the few that has women (khandroms) dancing together with men, following the same step and pace.

Putting the costumes together most likely involved a team of tailors, embroiderers, painters and mask makers.

For instance, the 30 dancers wore 30 different ghos and masks with distinctively unique designs and patterns. Each dance was characterised by distinct and unique costumes, helmets and masks, with the masks depicting the feeling of the powos. In the farewell dance, the masks depict anxiety and suspense.

The dances had a tinge of Tibetan influence in the movements, and the instruments, especially the drum, had a distinctive African beat.

This, the director of the festival, Dasho Karma Ura, states, the festival team studied many dances, including ancient dances like the Ngela dung kuchoe, Korphu drup Tangsi bi mani, which he describes as the mother of all tshechus.

One of the dances of the heroes has a mix of the Pazap dance from the Punakha dromchoe, which itself is a recreation of the war scene during Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel’s time.

An eye-catching dance yesterday was the Dance of Jetsun Milerapa, the 11th century Buddhist mystical saint. The dance in three parts lasted for about an hour, and the talking point was 31-year-old Damchoe, who played the bare bodied Milerapa.

Apart from the religious significance, the almost naked artist, enduring the freezing cold throughout the performance, stole the show. Damchoe, however, told Kuensel that he didn’t really feel the cold, as he was lost in the act.

The icing on the cake of the festival were the various songs composed or written by His Majesty the King, His Holiness the Je Khenpo, Dasho Karma Ura and Gonpo Tshering. The central monastic body performed the sacred Laygoen Jarog Dongchen dance with costumes that depict the sacred bird, raven, which is one the protective deities of Bhutan.

The Dochula Druk Wangyal festival will be showcased twice a year from next year.

By Ugyen Penjore

A tribute to the legend

December 11, 2011:(Thimphu) For the first time in several decades the motherland (painfully) called for her sons to lay their lives for the Tsa-Wa-Sum and the latter obliged without fear or remorse. The year was 2003 and the sovereignty of our glorious kingdom was under attack.The air reeked of blood as our armed forces inched their way into the dense jungle of Bhutan, which had provided safe heaven to the Indian militants for over a decade. Despite repeated pleas the insurgents refused to budge making a military operation imperative.

The outcome was unpredictable as these guerrilla fighters who knew the jungle like the back of their hand put up strong resistance. Though Bhutanese military had never fought a civil war before, they marched into the jungle undeterred because they were led by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo himself – something that appalled the whole world.


The country had been a hide out to the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland NDFB) and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). These insurgents were in arm conflicts with the Indian Government and had established several camps in Bhutan.

The 78th session of the National Assembly in July 2000 pushed for a peaceful dialogue with the insurgents - to urge them to leave the Bhutanese soil. Restricting ration supplies and other necessities were recommended. Following this the government invited the militants for (several rounds of) talks.

When all hopes for a peaceful negotiation with them failed, a deadline was set for December 31 2001. In response the ULFA and NDFB insurgents relocated their camps to more remote areas of Samdrup Jongkhar.

His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo extensively travelled to all the 20 Dzongkhags and explained to the people about the threat posed to the country’s security and sovereignty by the presence of these insurgents. A final ultimatum (December 13, 2003) was given but to no avail.

With all peaceful options exhausted, Bhutan had no choice but to launch a military operation against the Indian militants on December 15, 2003.

The military strike ‘Operation Flush Out’ was led by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo himself. The target was to flush out the militants from the southern pockets of Samtse, Kalikhola, Sarpang, Nganglam, Samdrup Jongkhar (then Bhangtar and Daifam). Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck also bravely stood next His Majesty during the operation.

In a span of three days Bhutanese military under the command of His Majesty emerged victorious.

“Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck is perhaps the only King of our times who has led his army into a battlefield. This event perhaps best illustrates the character of the Fourth King, a King who willingly put his life to risk for the sake of national security and future of the Bhutanese people. The operation was a great success; the militants were flushed out in an incredibly short span of three days,” post civil war report.

Druk Wangyel Festival

Hence the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival to be held on the premise of Druk Wangyel Lhakhang is an important national milestone commemorating the great leadership of the Wangchuck Dynasty in general, and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s visionary stewardship of the country’s development process in particular.

The festival is being built as a commemoration of the unworldly feat of his military campaign that rid the country of a menacing situation with the presence of unwanted militants within the country’s sovereign territory.

With Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck as the patron, the festival is being organized by the Royal Bhutan Army (led by Goonglen Batoo Tshering. Dasho Karma Ura is the festival director and has been engaged for the last two years in organizing the mega event.

Various mask and folk dances will be held on the occasion depicting spiritual, cultural and institutional themes. The inaugural version of the festival will be held on December 13, 2011 and will be held as an annual event henceforth.

Dochula Druk Wangyel Tsechu will start at 9 AM in the morning.

Chiudi Stampa