India | Karnataka

Namdroling Dance

An Ancient Buddhist Dance

The Namdroling dance is a form of Buddhist dance that existed in the Indian sub-continent more than a thousand years ago. The dance is now kept alive by the followers of the Namdroling order.

The founder of this order was Padmasambhava who went to Tibet from India in the eighth century. Padmasambhava learned the dance form from three teachers belonging to the East Indian state of Zahor. He taught the dance form to the Tibetan people who remember and practice them to this day.

The dances are regarded as religious ceremonies, rather than entertainment. They form part of an extensive series of religious rituals and prayer that is performed every year by the monks of Namdroling Monastery in Mysore. The first of these is a dance performed both in the morning and the afternoon accompanied by the sound of chanting monks. The dancers wear round flat-topped hats made of metal and painted black. On the top of the hat is stuck a peacock feather, which is considered an object of meditation. Around the feather is a gilded design of painted metal portraying flames while there is a sun and moon attached to the cup-shaped base, from which flow brightly colored scarves that hang down the back of the monk dancer. The group makes slow movements, gesturing with their arms and carefully moving their feet.

The next dance is held a week later. This time it is performed by a group of 16 dancers, who are clothed in beautiful garments, which make much use of silk brocade. A bell is held in their left hand, which is occasionally rung. In their right hand they hold an object called a ‘dorjay’, which represents a thunderbolt. They slowly move around in a circle making gestures with their hands and legs as other monks utter some chants.

The next day is the final day of the dance. The dance starts with a person wearing a golden mask. He is later joined by 24 other persons. The dance is followed by other ceremonies.

Updated on 9th December, 2005


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