Cham Dance

Kungri Monastery, Pin Valley, Spiti, India

Let the festival begin

Kungri Monastery in the Pin Valley region of Spiti is a Tibetan buddhist monastery of the Nyingma sect, it was built around 1330 A.D and is the second largest monastery in Spiti. Situated high up on a hill overlooking the Pin river it affords majestic views up and down the Valley. And that is not all, it is also known for its annual Cham Dance.

Opening Ceremony

The Cham Dance is a buddhist festival, a masked costumed dance that the local monks take part in whereby traditional drums are beaten, horns are blown and mantra's recited as masked monks dance around the monastery courtyard to the wonderment of the local residents.

Masked monks re-enact incidents from the life of Padmasambhava

Cham Dances are considered an act of meditation and an offering to the Gods with merit given to all those who perceive them. These dances often offer moral instruction to us mere mortals relating to one of the main buddhist tenets of compassion.

Buddhist Devotee

Not only do the local buddhists come to watch the Cham Festival but others travel from far and wide to witness the two day event. Prior to the opening ceremony, stalls outside the monastery are heaving with customers bartering over himalayan shawls, clothes, fancy jewellery and other haberdashery items. It's a real day out that the everyone makes the most of.

Locals from Pin Valley

Hitching a ride

The cultural religious festival of Cham at Kungri Monastery took place this year 2011 during the month of July on the 9th and 10th. As for 2012 it's hard to say what the actual dates will be as it changes with the Tibetan Lunar calendar. Finding out this year was quite a trying job, locals seem to have a vague idea but your best bet is to speak to a lama in one of the local gompa's (monasteries) and they will consult the magic book!

Demon Mask

Scary Masks

Kungri Monastery is located some distance up Pin Valley which in turn is situated within Spiti Valley and even though I was there during the summer month of July the weather was overcast, windy and very cool. It is a high altitude valley in the Indian himalaya so even in summer if the sun does'nt show itself prepared to get wrapped up to some degree.

Kungri Monastery


Rosary Beads

Masked Dancers

The Audience

The Band

Pin Valley itself is a steep sided valley with towering mountains either side of the Pin River, the rock formations are astounding, outlandish to say the least and you can also see a variety of wildlife along with the huge domesticated Yak. At the end of the valley is the village of Mud where if you want to go any further its a matter of trekking for several days over high altitude passes to reach a metalled road over in Parvati valley.
The village of Mud itself is full of character and characters. 

Local Residents

Girl from Mud

Spitian Man

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