Text by Patty Simon -Bumtang, Bhutan
After spending 2days on a harrowing, windy road (not like a nice Colorado mountain pass but more like a pretzel!), we get to our destination – a Buddhist festival in Bumtang (Google map it). Why? We wanted to attend one of the major festivals.
What we did not know is this- the first dance we would see would be naked men at one on the morning in the freezing cold, dancing around a huge bonfire (which I am sure they were thankful for).
Sad to say we could not take photographs. It was not sad because we wanted to slip into a juvenile place and giggle at the sight of so many penises. It was sad not to capture what was truly a beautiful National Geographic moment. The silhouettes of ballet-like, thin young men with their heads wrapped in white prayer shawls to hide their identities (and keep them warmer!), at one point looked like that beautiful Matisse painting of the dancers. Picture a blackness only found in Bhutan against a full moon high in the sky with young men with their own kind of “enlightenment” – the warm glow of the massive bonfire on their beautiful skin. A monk would use a drum or cymbal to create an ancient beat they would dance to going around the fire. There was a fun risqué element where pairs would go close to the audience shaking their private parts to sounds of laughter. We were lucky enough to be in the front row.
This was not just fun. This was important. This dance was meant to distract the demons away from the building of the Buddhist temple. Each family gave a male to participate. I felt safe knowing these evil elements were surely cast out. I could sleep soundly tonight.