The most well-known festivals in Bhutan are known as Tsechus. It offer the visitor the opportunity to see the colourful mask dances and religious art form of Bhutan. The Tsechus are held in honor of Guru Padsambhava, the Indian saint who is associated with the introduction of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of not only Bhutan but also Sikkim, Nepal, Ladakh as well as Tibet some 1200 years ago. The Tsechus are also a time for people to gather together dressed in their finest clothes, to meet friends, celebrate and receive blessings. The most popular festival for tourists are those held in Paro during spring, Thimphu and Bumthang in autumn. We can design your tours around any festival listed, just email us your intended travel dates.
The Jakar festival is one of the new festivals organized by the monastic body of the jakar dzong in Bumthang. It is held on the auspicious day and month in the Bhutanese calendar and last up to for maximum four days. The dances are held inside the courtyard of the fortress, jakar dzong. The festival constitutes of highly stylized masked dances performed by the trained monk body of the jakar dzong. People from all over the villages of Bumthang district come here to witness the festival dressing in their finest clothes and jewelry. They believed that attending the festival and watching the sacred dances helps one to acquire spiritual merit.
JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP FESTIVAL
The Jambay lhakhang drup festival is one of the most popular festivals held at the jambay lhakhang monastery in the central Bhutan. The temple is built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century. This festival was introduced to celebrate the completion of the lhakhang. The festival lasts for five days. The dances are performed by the laymen from different villages. The highlight of the festival is the sacred naked dance known as the Ter Cham and the “Mewang” the fire ceremony. The sacred naked dance is performed in the courtyard of the temple in the midnight and the fire dance is held in the evening to bless the infertile women so that this shall help them to bear the children. Most of the people from different district in Bhutan come to witness the festival dressing in their finest cloths, to get the blessing.
The Paro Tsechu festival is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. This festival is held for continuous four days. The first day begin with rituals held inside the courtyard of the dzong. Most of the dances are same like the other tsechu. Tsechu are one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan. The final day end with the display of a giant Thangka, known in Bhutan as a “Throngdrel (religious picture) of Guru Rinpochhe before dawn and blessings being provided.
Most of the people in this festival will be from the Paro district. They come fully clad in their finest silk cloth and jewelry to witness the festival.
The Punakha festival consists of two festivals. Known’s as the Dromache which last for 5 days and the Tsechu which begin after the Dromache
The Punakha Dromache is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ known as the local militia men, dress in a traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of standing army, men from the eight great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country.
During this festival a procession of monk walk down beside the river and throw a handful of oranges into the river (Mo chu) to symbolize the relic. At the same time the people swim into the river to get the oranges and it is believed that whoever gets the oranges is being highly blessed.
Right after the Dromache, the Punakha Tsechu starts. This festival was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra in the year 2005. The festival was introduced in order to preserve better teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrumg Rinpochhe. He was the person to build the Punakha Dzong.
People from different district they come in a finest cloth and jewelry with their packed lunch to witness the festival and to get blessing from the great lamas.
THANGBI MANI FESTIVAL
Thangbi Mani Festival is one of the most popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Gewog in Bumthang Dzongkhag. The festival is celebrated in the Thangbi monastery. The main highlight of this festival is the “Mewang” the fire blessing ceremony. Like other tsechu several mask dances and rituals are being performed here in this temple. It is believed that if one can jump three times over the fire then that person will be protected from the ill luck for a year. Therefore the people come and jump over the flame three times to be blessed for the whole year. People from all over the villages come here to witness the festival dressing in their finest cloths and jewelry.
The Thimpu Tsechu festival is one of the country’s largest festivals in the capital of Bhutan, Held at the Tashichho Dzong, home to government ministries and the monk body. This festival is a ceremony of colors with a happy amalgamation of the changing nature and the many moods of the Bhutanese culture. Featuring dances and rituals performed by the trained monk and laymen in elaborate, colorful costumes. The Thimphu festival was established by the fourth Temporal Ruler, Tenzin Rabgay in 1670. This festival also provide a great opportunity to witness local gathered in their finest silk cloth and jewelry, celebrating their rich Buddhist heritage.
The dancers in the festival are both monk and common men. Atsaras are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are an indispensable element in any religious festival. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics whenever the religious dancers begin to grow tedious. Believed to represent religious masters, they are the only people permitted to mock religion in a society where sacred matters are treated with the highest respect. For a few days, these popular entertainers are allowed the freedom to express a formulaic challenge within an established framework that does not, upset the social and religious order. So please forgive the atsaras if they flung phallic symbols at you.
The Ura Tsechu is the five days festivals held in the central Bhutan. The dancers in this festival are both monk and the common men. Most of the mask dances and songs are same like the Paro Tsechu. The festival is celebrated in the courtyard of the Ura Lhakhang. People from villagers in Ura valley they come with their family in a finest cloths with their packed lunch to witness the festival as well to get blessing. It is a great opportunity to mingle with the local people in the Ura valley and see their traditional style.