I n an open space of rice fields, a gate made entirely of leaves is set on fire. Naked villagers and spectators gathered around fire required to run under and through the gate to be relieved of their sins, bad karma, and all evils. Tercham is a religious mask dance observed once a year in central Bhutan, in an area known as the Bumthang Valley.
The mewang and tercham are part of a popular Bhutanese festival known locally as the Jambay Lhakhang Drup.
Every year, thousands of devotees congregate at the valley to witness the unique festival and get blessings while tourists are drawn in by dance unique dance. While no accounts on the origin of the dance have ever been found in black and white, local folklore states that the dance was first introduced and performed by the saint himself in the 8th century. He did this to distract and subdue demons that were impeding the construction of a temple in Nabji-Korphu in Trongsa district.
The temple was being built by the four daughters of King Sindhu Raja. When the demons obstructed the construction, they looked to Guru Padmasambhava for help. When Guru performed the powerful naked dance, the demons were all in awe, and the temple was fully erected without any hindrance. Tercham starts with a group of 12 naked men marching in centre stage. Their faces are fully wrapped with a white cloth, and often, they wear carved masks to hide their identity.
The men perform a series of meticulously-choreographed dances before blessing the voyeur massage room.
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