Cham is the sacred dance of Vajrayana Buddhism. Performed throughout Bhutan, it is usually presented in festivals featuring several days of dancing. Even the smallest village has a set of Cham dance masks. These dances have been passed down in Bhutan for hundreds of years. They are created by advanced Buddhist masters, and according to tradition are often transmitted to these masters through mystical visions.
The Vajrayana, or Tantric, branch of Buddhism was established in the Himalayas by the 700s. Vajrayana rituals involved meditation on and recitation of sacred sounds (mantras), practice of sacred hand gestures (mudras), and visualization of higher deities. This branch introduced into Buddhist practice the mandala, or mystical diagram of both human consciousness and the spiritual universe. Art has always played a key role in Vajrayana Buddhist practice.