(TibetanReview.net, Mar29, 2015) – Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Mar 27 presided over the 20th annual traditional Tibetan opera festival being organized by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), Dharamshala, for 10 days. The festival, known as Shoton (or yogurt feast), used to be an annual feature in Tibet to mark the end of the summer retreat of monks of Drepung Monastery, Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama considers the Tibetan opera, known as Ache Lhamo, a unique Tibetan cultural heritage and suggested its revival in the exile communities, which led to the first exile Shoton festival in 1993 with the participation of just four opera groups.
This year, besides TIPA, 10 groups from across India and Nepal are taking part, including three debutants, namely from Kollegal, Solokhumbu (Nepal), and TCV Chauntra. The others are from Mundgod, Bylakuppe, Kalimpong, Orissa, Bandhara, THF Mussoorie and Kathmandu (Nepal). Two of them are from schools.
The Tibetan operas bring to life stories from ancient Indian Buddhist folk tales, lives of important personalities, and historical events from the Tibetan civilization. At the ongoing Shoton, TIPA is presenting a new opera, based on the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni.
On the first day, each troupe presented a 20-minute extract of their otherwise day-long performances.
In Tibet too, shoton has been held annually in recent years by the Chinese government. However, it is held under extremely heavy and tight security, as a means to attract tourists, and to create an impression that the situation there is normal.