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Tibetan Monks Greet Ketchum with the ‘Singing of Elephants’
Wednesday, July 31, 2019


The long, deep haunting wail of two 10-foot long Tibetan trumpets known as dungchens reverberated through the Bailey Studio at the Argyros Performing Arts Center Tuesday afternoon.

The sound, which some experts have likened to the singing of elephants, signified that the theater was being turned into an extension of Tibet in exile for five days.

Three dozen people watched respectfully as nine monks clad in red robes with marigold-colored sashes sang from their throats, creating more than one pitch at a time, in a way that few in the world have been able to match.

“We are very honored to present one of our most important rituals known in Sanskrit language as mandala,” a monk who called himself Tenzin told viewers. “The architecture of the enlightened.”

Ten monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery, established in southern India after the Chinese invaded Tibet, are in Ketchum this week as part of the Mystical Arts of Tibet tour.

They will create a sand mandala out of millions of pieces of colored sand through Saturday morning when they hold a closing ceremony. The mandala will be on view in the Bailey Studio for an hour following the ceremony.

Then the monks will destroy the sand mandala, removing each element in a specific order. They will mix the sands together until they take on a grey hue, collect the sand in a pot and take it to the river.

There they will release it back to nature, trusting that the positive, healing energies of the mandala will spread through the world.

“Nothing lasts forever,” said Tenzin about the dismantling of the mandala.

The closing ceremony will be followed by a Sacred Music, Sacred Dance concert that night beginning at 7:30 in the Tierney theater.

It will include a combination of chanting, ritual temple dances that have been performed for thousands of years and the use of traditional Tibetan instruments, such as the bass dungchen horns, which resemble alpenhorns.

Those who attended the opening ceremony were greeted with a Tibetan table on which offerings had been placed. The offerings invoked the senses—an orange for taste, incense for smell and a white flower for the eyes. On another table were several small copper funnels and scrapers known as chak-pur paddles, along with 18 cups holding colored sand in reds, greens, yellows and blues.

Alongside them was a giant protractor, rulers and other tools the monks would use to create the design on which they would pour the sand. The design was drawn meticulously and in the right proportions over a two-hour period.

The opening ceremony involved an examination of the size of the mandala and the space in which it would be created, taking permission, Tenzin said.

“We believe this space is shared not just with human beings but other beings,” he added.

That was followed by mantras, singing and invocations.

The monks will continue to work on the mandala in the Bailey Studio from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday. They will finish the mandala at 11 a.m. on Saturday. They will then hold a closing ceremony at noon and transport the sand to the river.

There is no cost to watch. And there’s even a community mandala in the lobby of the Argyros where passersby can try their hand at building a mandala.

The “Sacred Music, Sacred Dance” concert on Saturday, Aug. 3, starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for those 30 years and under. Adult tickets start at $35, available by calling 208-726-7872 or at





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