GUBU springs to mind. Grotesque (a bit harsh), Unprecedented (yes). Bizarre (definitely). What did that last U stand for? Whatever. Probably that too.
We were being treated to a special cultural evening of entertainment at Endocholling Palace, a Buddhist monastery in central Bhutan - the first overland trip to have the opportunity. Earlier we were greeted by the Head Lama in the temple. Through an interpreter he told us about the Dsong which was built in the 16th century. He showed us where the current King stayed (modest quarters indeed) and then blessed some prayer flags which others in the group had purchased (using the same incense, chanting, ringing of bells common to many religions).
There followed a most interesting (interpreted) conversation kicked off by my question of what advice he had for those who did nor believe in Buddha or Guru Rinpoche (regarded as the reincarnation of Buddha). He was very ecumenical in his response (in acknowledging that there are many paths one can follow) and, on further probing, spoke eloquently about the Buddha being in everyone, one only had to search hard enough (echoing a similar view in Christianity). I was sorry I could not converse with him individually without the need for an interpreter - he was a very gentle soul.
Back to the cultural evening. The main dancers were the monks who emerged form the temple in colourful dresses and masks. A special feature was the 'black hat dance' which is designed to ward off evil spirits before Buddhist ceremonies are started (such as at the King's recent marriage).
In between dances, 6 women danced in a circle singing songs. But the unexpected entertainment came in the form of 4 youngsters who emerged from the temple in colourful outfits and scary masks wielding massive phalluses (it's a national symbol - honest!). They made a point of approaching all the men and positioning their national symbols to best effect for amused photographers among the group. Need I spell it out?
Did I mention the local drunk who, with extraordinary dexterity, managed to mimic many of the intricate dance moves (maybe he missed the cut?) Add in a large contingent of locals - especially some very excited kids and you got a very mad evening indeed. Inevitably we all ended up dancing and making fools of ourselves. Very entertaining.
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