Historically, Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, who visited the Snow Land to spread the Buddha Dharma at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen of Tibet, performed the Tsam [Tib,Cham Dance] in order to pacify all the harmful spirits, lus and other harmdoers that yogis wearing masks and garments or wrathful deities and holding the religious idols performed the first Tsam. Since then, the Tsam has been regarded as a symbol of conquering enemies and harmful spirits.
This tradition was introduced to Mongolia at the earliest of the XVIII century. As the first Tsam was staged in the capital of Mongolia in 1811 by the decree of His Holiness IV Bogd Jevzundamba [Tib.Jetsun Tenpa], it was named after ikh khuree. In the Ikh Khuree Tsam, Erleg Nomun Khaan Damjan Choijal [Tib,Tamjan Choegyal and San.Yamaraja] is characterized as the main yitam. Afterwards, it was performed every year till the communist purge. Later on, the Ikh Khuree Tsam began performing according to the rules written in the shstra ‘’Dansrun Jamtso’I Garcham’’ [Tib,Tensrun Gyatso’I Karcham] authored by Khamba Nomun Khaan Agvaanluvsankhaiduv [Tib,Ngagwang Lobsang Khedub] of Jedor Province. It became one of the most sacred religious ceremonies attracting the largest number of people such as noblemen, incarnate lamas, novice monks and lay-devotees for the time being.
The uniqueness of the Ikh Kuree Tsam is the noble presence of Ochirvaani [San,vajrapani]-the embodiment of the power of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas which is also believed to be a special protector for Mongolia-White Old Man and four guarding spirits of the four sacred mountains surrounding Ulaanbaatar; Garuda, Pig, Dog and Black Old Man.
Generally, the Tsam belongs to one of the five minor subjects of Buddhism Choreography. Also it is practice of the Highest Yoga Tantra belonging to the forth of the transformative modes of action; pacification, enrichment, control and distraction. Therefore, the Tsam greatly inspires the devotion of virtuous ones.
Prior to the actual Tsam, the monks who will perform as the tsam dancers must receive the Yamantaka Initiation and Erleg Nomun Khaan Damjan Choijal’s Empowerment. They must to the relevant retreat [meditation]. Then they attend the Jakhar Tsam for three days. Afterwards, they perform the Inner Tsam.
Finally, they perform the actual Tsam representing wrathful deities and protectors in order to destroy and control all kinds of harmful sprits, lus and harm-doers.
It is believed that by attending the Tsam, one is motivated or inspired to remove his/her five mental afflictions such as attachment, anger and ignorance, pride and jealousy. Moreover, from the Buddhist viewpoint, there are boundless benefits like not falling into the suffering of the intermediate state/ bardo and not taking a rebirth in any of the three lower realms but accumulating the cause of Enlightenment if one attends the Tsam with great devotion.
The Tsam spread in the following countries where Mahayana Tradition was upheld; Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal the Himalayan regions, Buryat, Tuva, Kalmyk and the inner Mongolia. Mongolian Buddhist scholars developed the Ikh Khuree Tsam uniquely. It has the most comprehensive performance and its masks and garments decorations and idols are seen as masterpieces of art and every decoration or ornament or religious represents a profound meaning.
The Tsam dresses are specially designated with wide sleeves. Lotus images are sewn on the upper dresses and wrathful face images are sewn one the lower dresses.
And the belts have images of the faces of peaceful deities. All the dresses are also ornamented with bone [rujen] decorations. A Tsam masks is big as twice as a human head and the tsam dancers see their way through their mouth and light and paper mache masks are used for it.
Various motions of hands, legs and body are performed at the Tsam. They all are representations of the inner meditation. During the Tsam, certain destructive rituals such as ‘’Linga breaking’’, ‘’jakhar’’ and ‘’Sor’’ are conducted.
In general, the Tsam performances are varied as the dance of heroes, dance of heroines, dance wrathful ones ( both male and females), dance of pacifying, inner dance, secret dance, dance of emptiness, dance of fiercely control, dance of wrathful beings. They are performed on two particular rhythms; fast and slow.
Gandan Tegchenling Monastery-the Center of Mongolian Buddhists revived this sacred tradition and performed the Ikh Khuree Tsam in 1999 in its full pattern according to the authenticity. In the revival of the Ikh Khuree Tsam, senior lamas of the monastery, namely as Ven.Danzan.D and Ven.Sereeter.S, made exceptional contributions. It would not be performed even today without their spiritual guidance and tremendous efforts. Today’s Tsam is the second complete performance of the Ikh Khuree Tsam.