Dance Mandal was originally established by Prajwal Vajracharya in Kathmandu to preserve and expand his lineage of Charya Nritya (dance) and Charya Giti (song).
Prajwal and Dance Mandal are now based in Portland, Oregon.
Charya Nritya and Charya Giti
The Newar Buddhist priests belong to the original ethnic group of the Katmandu Valley in Nepal. The priests are known as Vajracharyas, or masters of the Vajrayana. These yogic practitioners dance Charya Nritya in a state of deep meditative awareness in order to embody the living presence of the compassionate, peaceful, and fierce divinities of the Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon.
The deities are described in esoteric Sanskrit songs known as charya-giti, which are sung as accompaniment to the dance. Charya-giti are sung in a variety of raga (melodies) and tala (meter) and are accompanied by small cymbals know as ta and sometimes by a two-headed hourglass drum, or damaru. The songs begin with a flowing raga, followed by a more metrical section that includes description and praise of the deity and usually consists of changing verses and a fixed, repeating refrain. Sometimes a dharani praise invocation, or mantra, is inserted near the beginning or end.
Each Dance embodies forth a different Buddhist deity, such as Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajarayogini or Vajrapani. The central purpose of the dance is to support the Vajrayana practice of deity yoga, or visualizing oneself as a deity. This practice involves a mental process of seeing oneself as having the appearance, ornaments, inner qualities, and awareness of the deity one is envisioning.
Technically known as Charya Nritya, which means, “dance as a spiritual discipline,” this sacred dance form is a meditation discipline, vehicle of bodily and spiritual transformation, and opportunity for an audience to experience a vision of divine beauty.
“A Fascinating Display of Buddhist Dancing” – Los Angeles Times
CIIS California 2016
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