Tibetan Opera Festival Shoton 2016 under way in Mundgod

Shoton (Tibetan Opera) Festival 2016 at Mundgod, India, on 3 March 2016.

Shoton (Tibetan Opera) Festival 2016 at Mundgod, India, on 3 March 2016. TIPA Handout

Tibet Sun Newsroom

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 3 March 2016

The quiet Tibetan settlement of Mundgod, home to around 18,000 Tibetans in South India, is abuzz with festivity during the ongoing 21st Tibetan Opera Festival, Shoton 2016. The event is being organised under the aegis of the premier Tibetan performing arts group, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA).

More than 200 Tibetan artistes in seven opera troupes from India and Nepal are taking part in the eight-day festival, ending on the 8th with the performance of the newly adapted story Tonpae Zenam (Life of Buddha) by the artistes of TIPA.

The opening ceremony was graced by Gandhen Tripa Rizong Rinpoche, head of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mundgod is the seat of two of the largest Monastic Universities, Gandhen and Drepung, and is one of the largest Tibetan settlements in India.

A 35-member troupe from Dhondenling Tibetan Settlement in Kollegal took part in the annual festival for the first time, performing the play Chungpo Dhonyoe Dhondup.

Welcoming the artistes from Kollegal opera troupe on their maiden festival performance, the Director of Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts Mr Wangdu Tsering congratulated them on their achievement, and hoped they would continue to be part of the Ache Lhamo family in carrying forward this ancient Tibetan tradition.

Tibetan Opera, or Ache Lhamo, was started in one of the leading Buddhist monastic colleges of Palden Drepung in central Tibet in the 18th century. The festival grew in grandeur and in prominence, until the Tibetan Government incorporated it into its official calendar during the reign of the 13th Dalai Lama.

The festival was thus organised at Norling Kalsang Phodrang, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. Taking place mostly at the end of Yarne (Monastic Summer retreat) and the beginning of Summer, the Shoton Festival also marked the beginning of the pleasant summer season.

Traditionally 12 major and minor troupes from central Tibet take part in this festival. However, after the Chinese invasion of Tibet, it came to an abrupt end.

After coming into exile, various opera enthusiasts revived the Ache Lhamo tradition. The very first opera troupe was established in Kalimpong, followed by more in Dalhousie, Bylakuppe, and Nepal. Taking further initiative, from the mid-1970s the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts officially included Ache Lhamo performance in the regular curriculum of its students.

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