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Artscape 03: Tsagaan Sar Torma

The many elaborate torma offerings (Skt: Balingta, Wylie: gtor ma) pictured above are handmade by Sampel Lam (see below)  for Tsagaan Sar (Mong. Цагаан сар), the Mongolian Lunar New Year which this year was on 27th February 2017. The tormas are made mostly of flour and butter and natural food colourings. Each year an important liturgical performance is conducted in The Temple of the Five Manjushris at Delegeruun Choira (DC) Mongolia. At this time of year, outside on the treeless grassland steppe, the temperature tends to stay well below  -25 degrees C and the freezing Gobi winds swirl and howl relentlessly. However, inside the small and elaborate temple, Sampel Lam systematically works his way through a series of complex and stipulated ritual offerings for an entire month before Tsagaan Sar. Since 2004, he has done this under strict supervision and tutelage from Zava Damdin (1976- ) to ritually facilitate the harmonious wellbeing of the community. I have observed how each year the tormas he creates with his own hands and artistic imagination become more and more beautiful and technically elaborate.  The low and modest timber desk at which he sits for the month and for the better part of each day ( (and its so very very cold right?) can be seen at the bottom edge of the photograph. 26 February 2017. Photo courtesy of Temuulen Amarbat.

Sampel Lam (pictured above) is wearing his winter ceremonial monk’s robe, a vestment handmade by Jatsan Gundegmaa’s longstanding and deeply valued friend-tailor Munkhtsetseg. This monk’s deel reflects the emerging contemporary and quite sophisticated style of this particular lineage of contemporary Mongol Gelug Buddhism in Mongolia. The photograph was taken after the completion of Sampel Lam’s annual Winter retreat, in a small ger on the grounds of Delgeruun Choira where family members were gathering to share good food and stories of the year just passed, and to celebrate Tsagaan Sar (Mong. Цагаан сар) –to welcome an auspicious and conscious beginning to the New Year of the Rooster ahead. Delgertsogt Sum, Mongolia. 28 February 2017. Photograph courtesy of Temuulen Amarbat.

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The post Artscape 03: Tsagaan Sar Torma was written by Catherine Pleteshner.

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