Monday, November 15, 2010

Monastery Festival!

Earlier this month we attended a monastic festival at Thikse Gompa (Monestary). Thikse is noted for its resemblance to the Polala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The magnificent gompa is the largest of all the gompas in Central Ladakh. The following is an account of the experience we shared at the festival.

Hannah Kay writes.....

I love visiting monasteries. I realized that I have thoroughly enjoyed every monastery that we have visited. I found the Thiksey Monastery to be exceptionally picture-perfect.

The murals on the walls drew me in. I liked that the paint had faded in some areas, proving the many years that have past since its creation. The artistic style was somewhat different, especially in the back holy room, and that style reminded me of works of art I have seen elsewhere. Perhaps this familiarity was responsible for my interest, but I am sure a part of it was the images themselves. These images were of animals, blood-thirsty creatures, and war; in essence dark images I have not seen in any other monastery. I suppose I am particularly drawn to these images because (again) I can relate them to past art I have seen. I am sure my affinity for the artistic style at the monastery aided to my comfort there.

I greatly enjoyed hearing the traditional instruments played. Walking through a room full of monks, I was impressed to see how young some of the musicians were. It made me smile to see an older boy take on the responsibility of drumming when a younger boy grew tired. The music they created resonated with my own childhood, adding to the familiarity of the monastery. On the ship the Ticonderoga (at the Shelburne Museum), there is a small model ship where you press at button and the parts start to move in accordance with the real sounds the ship used to make. The music sounded just like the model ship.
The festival was a spectacle. There was such a crowd, it was fun to watch families settle down with their snacks like families waiting for a parade.

When the festival began, I could only hear the sounds echoing down from the roof. Tashi explained that the fist stage involved the oracle drinking chang, and soon enough he was dancing on the edge of the roof. I was a little afraid he would fall off, for he appeared to be staggering quite a bit (which is understandable considering he had fasted for 30 days). Watching this dance of danger was equally amusing to watching the monks reach for his robes if he went too close to the edge.
Of course my favorite dance was the first one, with the four little monks (wearing large, painted masks of faces). I wondered what they were thinking as they stepped out before the crowd. I wondered if they were nervous, and who they wanted to please more, the visitors or the elderly monks.

Watching the festival was a lot of fun-their costumes were so colorful and elaborate. I would have liked to stay longer, to see the next stages of the festival. I also would have liked to explore the monastery more, for I am sure there are more murals to be found.

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