Photographs from De long en large Ladakh by Jean Mansion - Édition Findakly. Copyright Lise Mansion


TAWANG, TORGYA (from the tib. torma, a sacrificial cake made of tsampa and dri butter often colored). Torgya has the shape of a high pyramidal structure in red colour.

FESTIVAL 25-26-27 January 2017, photos Monique Masse.

Torgya is celebrated annually. Every 3 years the festival named for the occasion Dungyur is of particular importance.

Tawang Monastery was founded in 1680 (year of the monkey) at the request of the 5th Dalai Lama, Nawang Losbsan Gyatso, in the current Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh; altitude 3000 m. Until 1914, Tawang was an integral part of Tibet, whose border is very close. The monastery is therefore part of the Gelugpa sect.

The festival lasts 3 days from the 28th to the 30th day of the lunar calendar (generally - end of January to mid-February - of the Gregorian calendar.

It takes place in the form of masked dances (Gar Cham).

The three days of ceremonies open to the laity are preceded on the 24th and 25th days of the lunar calendar by the preparation of the tormas (in the Dukhang (assembly hall). The different dances and ceremonies are similar to those performed in other Gelugpa monasteries in the Himalayan regions. Nevertheless, there are variants: origins, details, references. Unfortunately, a rigorous interpretation of the meaning and all the symbols is difficult. The comments provided by the monks lack precision and some are even contradictory. Moreover, the lack of diversity of the masks, although numerous, forces their reuse to characterize several different characters, especially among the representations of the laity. We notice the growing influence of the daily environment and its evolution in burlesque episodes with particular references to the contemporary world. The monpa, the main ethnic group that populates the region, constitutes a large part of the audience, many of them can be identified by the traditional black yak felt hat with 5 points facing the ground. Many Monpa women are distinguished by their red coats worn over an embroidered jacket and a long dress often pink and striped.

There are also visitors from the neighbouring Bhutan and Shertukpen ethnic groups residing in the neighbouring districts, particularly those of East and West Kameng.
For more information on the chronology of the key moments of the 3 days of the Torgya, you can download the PDF document.