Festivals

Tshechu is a religious festival meaning "tenth day" held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country.

The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.
Tshechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. . In addition to the mask dances tshechus also include colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment.
It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu 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 Tshechus in the country are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus 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.

Mongar Tshechu : The main inhabitants of this region are the Tshanglas and the Kurtoeps. They speak distinct languages known as Tshanglakha and Kurtoepaikha. This region is famous for its exquisite wood carvings. The new Dzong in Mongar was built at the initiative of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1953 Mongar in eastern Bhutan is largely known as the “Bastion of the Zhongarps,” after the illustrious Dzongpons of Zhongar that played significant role in the history of Bhutan. One can still see the ruins of the Zhongar Dzong next to the highway in Lingmethang before reaching Mongar.

The main inhabitants of this region are the Tshanglas and the Kurtoeps. They speak distinct languages known as Tshanglakha and Kurtoepaikha. This region is famous for its exquisite wood carvings.

The new Dzong in Mongar was built at the initiative of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1953. Today the dzong is the centre of administration where all important decisions are taken. The most exciting local event is the annual three day Tshechu that is held every November. It is witnessed by people from as far as Trashigang and Lhuentse. There are numerous local Tshechus in this region all with their own unique dances and traditions. They occur at various times throughout the year so visitors can be assured that no matter when they visit a fantastic and colorful local festival will be taking place.

Nimalung Festival : The Lhakhang was co-founded by Dasho Gonpo Dorji and Doring Trulku Jamyang Kunzang, the third mind-aspect reincarnation of Terton Jigme Lingpa in 1935. The main relic of the two-storied temple is a magnificent statue of Guru Rimpoche. The monastery is decorated with murals of the Nyingmapa and Nimalung Lhakhang is located in Chumey in Bumthang. It is approximately a 15 minute drive from the road that branches off from the village of Chumey. The Lhakhang was co-founded by Dasho Gonpo Dorji and Doring Trulku Jamyang Kunzang, the third mind-aspect reincarnation of Terton Jigme Lingpa in 1935. The main relic of the two-storied temple is a magnificent statue of Guru Rimpoche. The monastery is decorated with murals of the Nyingmapa and Drukpa traditions. There are also paintings of Guru Rimpoche and his disciples, the lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa, and several Buddhist masters affiliated with the monastery.

One of the most important festivals held at the Lhakhang is the Kaling Zhitro Drubchen. It was initiated by Doring Trulku and he was the first person to have started the rite in Bhutan. It is held on the first fifteen days of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar. The local Tshechu is held once a year in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar. During the Tshechu an awe-inspiring Thongdrol (gigantic scroll painting) of Guru Rimpoche is put on display for attendees. The Thongdrol is nine meters long and twelve meters wide and in addition to inspiring wonder is said to cleanse the sins of all those who look upon it. The Thongdrol which was donated by Lopen Pemala and was consecrated in June 1994 in the presence of a large crowd of villagers by Lhalung Thuksey Rimpoche, the reincarnation of mental aspect of Pema Lingpa. During the festival, a series of colorful and spectacular mask dances are performed.

Nomad Festival : You’ll gain an intimate glimpse into the proud communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Dine on delicious traditional recipes whilst sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as families from this region This annual gathering of Bhutan’s nomadic highlanders brings together the herders of the northeastern and northwestern Himalayan frontiers in an unforgettable celebration of their unique culture and traditions. You’ll gain an intimate glimpse into the proud communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Dine on delicious traditional recipes whilst sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as families from this region have done for untold ages.

Dress like a Bhutanese highlander and try on an entire costume spun from yak hair, including the Brokpa black hat with five long fringes down the front or the conical bamboo Layap headgear. Ladies can wear the wide, beautiful hand-woven aprons decorated with colorful motifs of flowers and animals traditionally worn by women. They can even have their hair plaited and decorated with colorful ribbons in the traditional style of the region. The festival will give you the opportunity to witness the grand pageantry of the Chipdrel, a ceremonial procession usually reserved for royalty. Adventurous visitors will definitely want to try some yak riding. Immerse yourself in the festival-wide demonstrations of traditional Bhutanese village life including using ancient mill-stones for grinding maize, husking harvested rice and tilling fields with ox-drawn ploughs. Attain inner peace as you visit some of the most exquisite Buddhist temples in Bhutan. The Nomad festival is held in Bumthang Dzongkhag (district) in central Bhutan the spiritual heartland of the country. Bumthang is approximately an 8 hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu.

Paro Tshechu : The Tsehchu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) , the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong.The Paro Tshechu is held every spring and is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro Dzongkhag (district).

The Tsehchu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) , the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong. Thongdrols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze viewers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdrol is said to cleanse the viewer of sin.

Pema Gatshel Tshechu : The district is known for its numerous festivals and folk songs. The most notable folk song is the Ausa, a song that is sung during the departure of family members, friends and relatives. Since the construction of the dzong in the early 1980’s, they have also celebrated the annual Tshechu Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag is situated in Eastern Bhutan. Its major inhabitants are the Tshanglas who are found living on agriculture and animal husbandry. The district is known for its numerous festivals and folk songs. The most notable folk song is the Ausa, a song that is sung during the departure of family members, friends and relatives. Since the construction of the dzong in the early 1980’s, they have also celebrated the annual Tshechu over a three day period.

Many Mask Dances or Cham which are believed to confer blessings upon the spectators and teach them the ways of the Buddhist dharma are performed during the festival. Cham are also believed to provide protection from misfortune and exorcise evil influences. The festival is a religious ceremony and it is believed that you gain merit simply by attending it. It is also an annual social gathering where people from all walks of life get together to celebrate and contemplate religion. People often travel great distances to be a part of the Tsehchu. The entire community rejoices together, dressed in their finest clothing whilst enjoying the company of friends and family.

Punakha Tshechu and Drubchen : Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world. During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan is the winter home of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century.Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world. During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.

The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability. In 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local peopleto host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche. These two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.

Sakteng Festival : Living close to nature in this pristine wilderness, the Brokpas way of life has remained virtually unchanged through the years and they still mainly depend upon yak rearing and animal husbandry for their livelihoods. Sakteng valley remains untouched and unspoiled by the influence of the outside Sakten valley is situated in eastern Bhutan under Trashigang Dzongkhag at an altitude of 3000 meters. It is inhabited by a semi-nomadic people known as the Brokpas.

Living close to nature in this pristine wilderness, the Brokpas way of life has remained virtually unchanged through the years and they still mainly depend upon yak rearing and animal husbandry for their livelihoods. Sakteng valley remains untouched and unspoiled by the influence of the outside world. The Sakten Tshechu is held for three days each year at the Sakten Lhakhang situated just next to the village. In addition to its religious function the Tshechu provides the Brokpas with an occasion for revelry and merry making. Like all Tshechus in Bhutan, the festival is a time when the entire community can come together for celebrate and engage in worship. The festival is a lively, colorful and jovial event as the Brokpas are all dressed in their traditional finery and enjoying the celebration with rounds of ara (local wine). The rare Yak dance and the Ache Lhamo dance are performed during this festival. These dances are unique to the Brokpa culture and are quite distinctive from the usual mask dances seen in other parts of the country.