Ache Lhamo (c) 2017

If there is anything that Tibetan love more than Buddhism, that has to be dancing. Throughout Tibet, hundreds of different dance forms can be found and a lot of them are old and preserved very well.

The best exhibition for Tibetan dances are probably in Tibetan theatre- Ache Lhamo or Lhamo, meaning goddess sisters, as it is said that the first Lhamo was performed by seven sisters.


Ache Lhamo is a catch-all term to a lot of Tibetan drama forms, which is an enormous theatrical system that includes different classes and genres due to the geographical and cultural differences of settlements on the Tibetan plateau. Lhamo dates back as far as six hundred years ago and were originally and majorly on Buddhism related subjects.

It is popularly believed that tradition of performing Ache Lhamo or Tibetan Opera was started by 14th-century mystic Thang Tong Gyalpo, who was born in either 1361 or 1385. After spending years in monastic study, he took monastic vows from Lama Nyima Senge, who named him Tsuendue Sangpo.

Seeking to construct bridges, he needed labor and resources. Thus during construction of bridge at Chowo Ri, from his labor team he picked seven sisters and taught them some dance and songs. Adorning them with beautiful costumes, they travelled around towns and villages performing dances to raise resources. The yogi beat drums and cymbal while the girls danced and sang. Audiences, impressed, hailed the performers as “goddesses” (Tibetan: Lhamo); since then they were known as Goddess Sisters. (Tibetan: Ache Lhamo); the tradition of Ache Lhamo developed from this beginning.

Over a period of years Thang Tong Gyalpo was able to build 58 iron bridges and 60 wooden bridges across towns and villages. He died at an advanced age in Toe Riwoche in 1509.

The remnants of some of his iron chain bridges still stand today in places in Tibet and Bhutan. It became customary for Tibetans to install images and statues of him when occupying a new home. During the opening ritual dance, every lhamo or opera group installs his statue in the middle of the stage and pays homage to him.


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