The tribal region of Spiti, in a remote corner of the high Himalayas, is home to five monasteries (gompas); each more than 1000 yrs old. The extreme landscape and weather has shaped tough, yet hardy and benevolent people. This is the famed Ki Gompa, an ancient and powerful seat of Buddhism.
‘Guitor’, is a sacred festival celebrated in the June/July period. Dancing lamas wear masks and perform a ceremony called Chham. These dances represent character and morals in stories told of demons and spirits.
The lamas are revered and are said to carry divine energy from the compelling ritual of the enactment. Yet the nervous eyes of the young lama belay his very human performance-anxiety.
Tradition is handed down as a symbol of identity. Is heritage what defines us?
The demon mask here, announces its presence with a piercing stare. Is this the ego?
Culture is the prevailing way of life. Need it be described by tradition and definition, or can it be informed by merging diversity and changing outlook?
The roughhewn simpleton masks are the watchmen of the ceremony. They carry sticks and shoo zealous spectators away. Often showing amused expressions, this one seems gratified.
Expectation comes from how we choose to define ourselves. Whether we entrench the shades of history & conditioning or widen perspective to add colors from travel and experience, is what we become.
Tradition directs the teenage lama, to step over a devotee; who not just willingly, but forcefully lays down beneath his feet. His humanity and humility however, urges him to diverge from this path.
Shame & Pride cause conflict in his youthful eyes.
Discipline and practice is shaping a resolve and fortitude forged in the mountains! The character is taking shape. The wonder of the outside world, however, calls out.
This young nun has heard the call and is longing to explore!