BHUTAN– FAIRS & FESTIVALS IN THE LAND OF THE THUNDER DRAGON
Festivals in Bhutan takes place at different times of the year, regarding to place to place. “Tshechu” known to the localities of Bhutan for festival, comes in a form of religious activities, and the time when people gather, with their best attires. Festivals are celebrated on 10th Day of particular month, so the name “Tshechu” was derived, (“Tshe” means Date and “Chu” means 10).
Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The dancers whether monks or layman, are in a state of meditation. They transform themselves into the deities, which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators. For the Bhutanese, religious festivals offer an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain much merit. This is also occasions for seeing people, and for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success. People bring out their finest clothes, their most beautiful jewelries, and go for picnic with abundant alcohol and meat. Men and women joke and flirt. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humor prevails.
Tshechu festivals are celebrated for several days ranging from minimum of three days to five days, according to their location. One would be able to view and witness Bhutanese Focal Dances, religious dance, Mask Dances known as “Chaam”, and other religious dramas and epics of great known saint of Buddhism. These dances are performed by Monks, laymen and few dances by students of RAPA (Royal Academy of Performing Arts).
SOME OF THE IMPORTANT TSECHU ARE AS LISTED BELOW
Punakha Dromache & Tshechu
Five day Puna Drubchen is followed by three-day Punakha Tsechu. Puna Drubchen is an annual festival introduced by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans. As for the Punakha Tshechu, it was introduced in 2005, in keeping with Dzong and monastic traditions of Bhutan and upon request of the public. The annual Dromche or drubchen of Punakha is unusual because of its dramatic recreation of a 17th century battle scene, in which the Tibetan armies invade Bhutan to seize Bhutan’s most precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani, a self-created image of Chenrizing. At the end of the festival, there is a display of giant Thangkha with images of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal.
Punakha Drubchen therefore celebrates two important events:
- Worship of the guardian deities and presentation of the deities to the public through mask dances performed by the monks.
- Enactment of ancient military scenes by Pazaps.
Paro Tsechu Festival is one of the biggest events in Bhutan. Like other Tsechus, it held to honour Guru Rinpoche, who spread tantric Buddhism that is practiced all over Himalayas (often called Tibetan Buddhism).
This festival usually takes place in March or April each year, depending upon the Bhutanese lunar calendar. It is considered one of the most colorful and most popular festivals of Bhutan. Usually the first day of the festival is held inside the courtyard of the Dzong and on the final day (before dawn), a gaint Thangka or Thongdol, an silk allique of Guru Rinpoche is displayed.
Festival participants don ornamental dress and elaborate costumes that are worn just once a year. Other highlights of the Paro Festival include the Thongdrel on the last day. “Thongdrel means liberation upon sight, seeing one is enough to bring the faithful into an enlightened state.”
Wangdue Tsechu is held inside Wangdiphodrang Dzong. It is a three day event of mask dances and folk dances and on the final day, huge thangka is display.
Thimphu Tsechu Festival is preceded by three-day Dromchoe, (which is only open to Bhutanese). Like most festival, this four day Thimphu Tsechu festival is held to honour Guru Rinpoche, who in 8th century contributed to diffusion of Tantric Buddhism, in whole of the Himalayan regions. It is held from 9th till 11th of the 8th month of Bhutanese calendar in autumn. Download the PDF document for day by day program, details/description of dances and their significance.
Thimphu Drupchen or Drubchen (popularly known as Thimphu Dromchoey) is performed at the Thimphu Tashichhodzong. The sacred masked dance is dedicated to appeasing the protecting deity of Bhutan, Pelden Lhamo. The dance ceremony was instituted between 1705 and 1709 by Kuenga Gyaltshen, the first reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. According to legend, Pelden Lhamo appeared before him and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyeltshen initiated the dance ceremony. Thimphu Drubchen is a 5 day event preceding the popular 3 day Thimphu Tsechu festival. Because it is mainly to appease the protecting deities, it is considered more sacred and was not open for tourists until recently. Photographing may be prohibited during the Drubchen.
The Coordinating committee of the annual Thimphu Drubchen and Tsechu has issued the following decorum for tourist attending the event in 2010:
- Not to place filming equipment in front of the crowd, obstructing public view
- Approvals from the Department of Culture and BICMA has to be sought for Filming & photography in Kuenrey and the Dukhang
- Pay and use toilet facility is available inside the Dzong.
- The Ministry of Health will have a clinic set up with ambulance outside the Dzong in case of any emergencies.
Trongsa Tsechu is held inside Trongsa Dzong. Trongsa Tsechu is one the oldest Tsechu in Bhutan. It is believed the Tsechus in Bhutan was spread from Trongsa. Most of the Champoen or the mask dance teachers, learned in Trongsa. On the last day of the Trongsa Tsechu, giant Thongdrel or Thangkha is unfurled.
It is mostly seen that even the tourist make their trip plans according to the popular Indian fairs and festivals.
“THE ABOVE FESTIVALS CAN BE COMBINED WITH ANY OF OUR BHUTAN ITINERARIES AS PER YOUR CHOICE AND DATES OF TRAVEL”