Posted on October 5, 2012 by Margot
Again we were fortunate enough a couple of days later to encounter a Teschu of a different kind in the much smaller town of Jakar in the province of Bumthang. This time think the local show in country NSW, plus side show alley without the rides but with hoopla, darts, and fairy floss, plus trashy market in any little south east Asian town and you will start to get the picture. There was even a stall where you could lay money on the fall of the dice – a great attraction for some of the monks who still seem to have some interest in worldly matters!!
There were dances inside the temple courtyard along the lines of those we had seen in Thimpu, but the truly distinguishing amazing element of this particular festival was the cleansing ritual that went on outside the temple walls prior to the dances. It started off with a procession of monks emerging from the temple, some blowing traditional long trumpets, others clashing cymbals, and others dancing like crazy men.
At some juncture a signal was given, piles of straw were set alight, the dancers went even more crazy and the crowd seemed to be gripped by a sort of mass hysteria as they all pushed and shoved and jostled for position in order to pass between and then circle around the two burning pyres, thus being cleansed, purified and blessed for the next twelve months. At one stage our guide and the local constabulary were looking a little concerned as it looked as if there might have been a fall close to the fire, but it seemed to get sorted.
Not everyone rushed in immediately. Some waited till the flames had died down and the crowd had thinned. Some even looked a tad disapproving! And the dancers themselves, having whipped the crowd into a frenzy with their little grass whips stood back and watched in a proprietary sort of a way. But mostly everyone looked incredibly happy and thrilled with what they had just been through.
The temple dances seemed pretty tame after that – although some of the local kids thought enough of them to clamber up on to the temple wall to get a good look, and as usual, just observing the crowd was well worth while.