Native to Lahaul & Spiti, Chaam Dance of Himachal Pradesh is a form of a devil dance. This special dance is performed by the monks and lamas that live in monasteries of this region. This devotional dance is performed by wearing exclusive masks or headgears and is a devotion of the monks towards Lord Buddha.
It is, in fact, an evil dance that is performed by a number of artists at a time. It has extreme religious as well as cultural significance for both the performers as well as spectators. The religious zeal and ardent faith of people is embodied through Chaam Dance. The dancers get themselves dressed in fabrics of multi colors which are embellished with motifs made in patchwork.
The dance is popular in Tibetan areas like Lahaul & Spiti, Kinnaur, and many areas of Ladhakh. The dancers wear extensive costumes that have images of "evil" printed in them. The costumes are over-sized and multicolored. Their head caps are also quite big. The dancers make slow and circular movements and sway their bodies to the beats of drums, pipes, and cymbals. Their masks are generally made up of wood and coated with plaster. All the costumes are prepared by the monks themselves and are stored with utmost care.
Chaam Dance is significant for monks and llamas as it propagates the age-old adage of victory of good over evil. The saying is manifested in the theme of the dance in which a demon king is killed by a deity, hence protecting his devotees from various calamities and deadly diseases. The dance is believed to bring peace, happiness and security for the people.
There is also a specific purpose behind wearing monstrous masks. These masks are supposed to embody the spirit of devils and monsters. The masks are built in the form of skeletons, devils, evil-spirits, and dragons. In fact, the dancers, through their dancing and extensive get-ups try to imitate "Yama" who is the ruler of death and Padamsambhava who is the protector of mankind. Chaam Dance is supposed to bring out all evil and sanctify the environment.
While dancing, the artists carry with themselves a weapon that resembles a blade and its head is adorned with a hawk-like bird. This weapon is used to exorcise the evil spirit from the body. It is generally made up of wood, bronze, or steel.
Chaam dance is of great religious and cultural significance for lamas who take part in the event with devotion and faith.