Festivals in Bhutan
Tsechu (festival) is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the exact month of the Tsechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.
Tsechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. In addition to the mask dances, tsechu also include colourful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment.
It is believed that everyone must attend a Tsechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and cleanse their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tsechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men.
Two of the most popular Tsechus in the country are the Paro and Thimphu Tsechus in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals many tourists from across the world are attracted to these unique, colorful and exciting displays of traditional culture.
Most popular Tsechus are:
The Punakha Tsechu is one of the most popular Tsechus (Festivals) in the country. It is held right after the popular Punakha Drubchen. The unfurling of the thongdrel (a large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche is the main attraction of the festival. Thousands of people from the valley and other parts of Bhutan attend the festival making the festival one of the biggest event in the valley. Colorful mask dances and traditional dances honor Guru Padmasambhava as in all Tsechus in Bhutan.
Introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to celebrate the win over Tibetan invaders and for the unification of the country as one nation, Punakha Drubchen, a grand celebration to honor the event was held. Later on, it went to become an annual festival of the valley. The battle scenes performed by the Pazaps adorned in the ancient battle gear, the whole festival is choreographed to enact the battle between Tibetan invading forces and Pazaps of Bhutan.
Annual Talo Tsechu is held in Talo Dzong in Punakha. The three-day festival is well known for well-choreographed mask dances and traditional dances by Talo villagers. The traditional dances are with the three Songs (Zhungdra) Samyi Sala, Drukpa Dungey, and Thowachi Gangi Tselay performed on first, second and final day respectively. Scattered along the slopes the Talo village is one of the beautiful villages in Punakha.
Established in around the 1670s to commemorate the birth of Guru Rinpoche, Thimphu Tsechu is considered the biggest three-day festival to be held in Bhutan. The festival is not only celebrated in the Tendrel Thang (celebration ground) at Trashichoedzong but also around the city, huge discount sales, fairs, variety shows, street shows and many more are some of the festive activities. Thousands of people from Thimphu and also from other districts make it for the three-day festival to celebrate and receive blessings.
To honor Guru Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism into the country, annually thousands of people from Paro and other parts of the country fill till the brim of the courtyard outside the Rinpung Dzong. Several indigenous well-choreographed mask dances, traditional dances, and songs make the festival colorful and picturesque. The main highlight of the festival is unfurling of the giant silk Thangka or thongdrel of Guru Rinpoche. The thongdrel is just exhibited for few hours at early daybreak for people and devotees to get a blessing from.
View our Festival calendar for year 2019 here.