And where does Pang Lhabsol derive its essence from?
In the legendary past the great Tibetan Chief Khye Bumsa from the Chumbi Valley in Tibet had vowed a pact of blood brotherhood with the Sikkimese Lepcha Chief Thekong Tek. The local deities were then invoked to remain witness to the ceremony and bless it. The two races then became brethrens. It is in that spirit they still celebrate today.
At the dance the guardian deity, Mt Khangchendzonga is symbolized as a fierce ruddy faced deity, his mask is crowned with five menacing skulls astride their equally terrifying mounts of mythical snow lions.
Comical characters (jesters) called ‘Atchars’ also regale the public during the dance just like in other religious mask dances. Their roles in the choreography seems so befitting - the main dancers symbolic of the different forces of nature putting up the main performance in all seriousness, and then their brief comical appearances between the acts. Other than putting on a hilarious show, the ‘Atchers’ have the duty to control the crowd and assist dancers having problems with their props.
Atchars - a closer view of their masks
Pang Lhabsol in Rabongla isn’t just a tradition being followed because it is written on the almanac. To the devout, it is the realization of goals and objectives more profound, and there were many who came to be blessed. For some it was just plain entertainment while for others it was a once in a lifetime experience, plain lucky because they were there at the right place in the right time - just like Vikram, his wife, and Kuan.
Rabongla is around 65 km from Gangtok on the Gangtok-Gyalshing highway. Taxis are readily available in Gangtok.
What to do?
Walk, of course. Plenty of fresh air and an absolute calm makes it one of the best places for refreshing ambles. You can take short hikes into the woods or get on the 3 to 4 hour uphill trail to Maenam Peak at 10,612 feet passing through the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary lush with gorgeous magnolias and rhododendron. Another half hour’s walk will take you to ‘Bhale Dhunga’ the cliff resembling a rooster’s head. Also oggle at the mountain range. Khangchendzonga, Siniolchu, Pandim and Kabru in a row couldn’t be more beautiful!