The eerie lakhe dance or a demon dance is an age-old legacy and cultural icon of the indigenous Newari community that resides inside Kathmandu valley and in many parts of Nepal. This peculiar dance is usually exhibited on the occasions of carnivals such as Indrajatra and Gaijatra.
The dance itself evokes a sort of eerie feeling in the spectators although a human being dances wearing the mask of a lakhe or demon. However, it is also exciting to see this dance being performed in public.
The spectacle of the Newari cultural dance symbolizes a demon or lakhe dancing before the gods and deities wearing a huge red, terrifying mask with prominent, bawdy eyes, protruding fangs, serrated teeth, and a dark red wig dancing and briskly thrashing his limbs and his face corresponding to the face of the man-eating demon is something that instills scary emotions in you. At the same time, it adds to the flavor and thrill of the traditional dance.
People believe that the spirit of the demon or lakhe resides inside the mask or Khawpa. So, once a human being supposed to dance publicly wears the mask or Khawpa, the mask automatically goads the man to dance as the very spirit of the demon takes over the body of the human being.
It means that when the mask is worn by the man, it is the demon himself that starts to dance and not the man behind the demon mask although we see the man moving his legs and limbs to behind the mask.
The lakhe dance is one of the most intriguing and intimidating traditional dances that thrive among the indigenous tribes of the Newar community in Nepal.
Wearing mud made or wooden masks by traditional dancers can be seen in some of the other indigenous tribes like those of Kham people of Rolpa too. During the festivities of Tihar, these Kham people also dance with a mask on their face to enjoy the dance of “Singaru.”
Myths and legends
There are various myths and anecdotes related to this demon or Lakhe (Majipa lankhe). Lakhe in Newari indicates towards the man-eating demon that used to trouble a place called Majipa by endangering the lives of the local people. The legend has it that once one demon or lakhe fell in love with a young girl. After that, the demon or lakhe started visiting the girl disguised as human being.
But much later the demon was captured and his real identity was exposed that he was a flesh-eating demon. However, the king of Majipa forgave him and did not punish the demon. The demon was allowed to live his rest of life with his loved girl under the condition that he promises to give up his man-eating habits and vows to protect the children of that place.
When this demon dance or lakhe dance is enacted a teaser demon usually chases the demon to motivate the demon or lakhe to dance. The ancient dance is also the epitome of several fights and struggles that the demon had to indulge in as part of his negotiation with the King.
Another version of the legend says that the demon dance is the indication of punishment dictated upon the demon for his immoral relationship with the girl. Irrespective of all these speculations and legends the unique demon dance has its cultural, faith and musical values that one cannot underestimate.
These days the demon dance can also be seen to be used for charity shows to collect humanitarian funds. For whatever reasons, the old cultural dances are being revived these days.
A visitor to Nepal can enjoy these demons dance and carry back unforgettable memories.
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