The Mystic Cham Dance of Ladakh


Cham Dance is a ritual dance played in several monasteries in the Himalayas, particularly in Ladakh. It is one of the significant festivals of Ladakh.

Word ‘Cham’ derives from hand mudras or gestures that are mainly practised in these dances. Hand gestures exhibit a great meaning along with the costume and the symbols included in hand. For instance, a sword is meant to remove ignorance.

Some historians believe that the rituals started during the existence of the historical Buddha or Sakyamuni. This theory puts this ritual's origin to 6th BCE.

Cham dance is a colourful dance conducted by the lamas with strict rules and customs – who are otherwise observed living and praying in monasteries found on hilltops.

The peaceful spots of Himalayan monasteries usually come alive with these festivals. Dressed in colourful and bright costumes, lamas dance rhythmically with live music.

The primary purpose of the ceremony is the demolition of evil spirits for the greater welfare of humanity. The exciting part is how it is performed.

Monks pray and meditate for a long time before the celebration. On the day of the Gustor, they dress up in colorful brocades and fearsome masks, holding symbolic things in their hands. They take horrifying looks to frighten the evil spirits and throw them out of the environment.

There is no appropriate period or event to witness the ritual. The Cham dance is played at most religious festivals. Every monastery celebrates its own festival, carried out in summer and some in winter, and many celebrate carnival as per the Tibetan Lunar calendar.

There are several famous festivals in Ladakh that offer the excellent opportunity to witness the Cham Dance.

Most monasteries in Ladakh have their Gustor festival on various dates throughout the year, so check out the times and dates matches with one of them.