BHUTAN – Festivals in Bhutan are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious performances, receive blessings, and interact. The dazzling dances, thrilling fire displays, legendary storytelling, and vibrant masks create an electrifying and passionate atmosphere.
Tshechu is a religious event, celebrated on the 10th day of the lunar month, corresponding to the birth of Guru Rinpoche (Lotus Born).
It is believed that every Bhutanese must attend Tshechus and witness mask dances at least once to seek blessings from their sacred deities.
It’s a significant social gathering that deepens the sense of community, especially for those living remotely in the Himalayan region.
Thimphu Tshechu Festival
The Thimphu Tshechu, also known as the National Festival of Bhutan, is the largest and most popular festival in the country.
It is held at Tendrel Thang, a festival ground, and features mask dances (Cham or folk dances) performed to bestow blessings upon the audience and impart Buddhist teachings. It is believed that one can attain good fortune by attending these festivals.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup Festival
The Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival takes place at the Jambay Lhakhang Temple in Bumthang. This temple is one of the 108 temples built in a single day by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in the 7th century. The festival is marked by various mask dances known as chams in the local language.
The fire ritual, Mewang, attracts thousands of tourists. During the ritual, locals can be seen dancing under a fiery structure made of dried grass. The Dance of Treasure, or Tercham, is the highlight of the event, where dancers wear nude masks to bless infertile women to conceive.
Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu Festival
The Wangdue Phodrang region is known for traditional speeches and songs called Lozeys. The annual festival was introduced after completing a fortress in 1639. The ‘Dance of the Ox’ is the main attraction, where people dance to ensure a peaceful afterlife.
The festival concludes with the unveiling of massive thangkas called Guru Tshengye Thongdrol.
Punakha Tshechu and Drubchen Festival
Punakha Drubchen recreates a dramatic scene from a 17th-century battle with the Tibetan army. Local warriors don traditional battle attire and reenact the entire scene.
The festival commemorates the victory and pays tribute to the people of Thimphu who drove the Tibetan army out of their land. It is celebrated as the victory that ushered in a new era of internal peace and stability. In 2005, Punakha Tshechu was introduced at the request of the Punakha District Government to preserve Buddhist teachings.
Paro Tshechu Festival
Paro Tshechu is held in the Paro Dzongkhag district and is considered one of the biggest religious festivals. The celebration continues for 5 days, usually during Bhutan’s spring on the 2nd day of the 2nd lunar month. The festival portrays the beautiful culture, tradition, and age-old customs carried forward in Bhutan.
Monks and laypeople adorn vibrant costumes and perform dances together. On the final day, a large embroidered thangka is displayed for all to see. It is believed that by witnessing this Throngdrel, one can cleanse their sins.
The Matsutake festival is organized by the local people in the Ura Valley during mushroom season. This festival offers an in-depth look into the local lifestyle of Bhutanese villagers.
Attendees can enjoy mushroom foraging and immerse themselves in the beautiful forests and hills of the Ura Valley.
Jomolhari Mountain Festival
The Jomolhari festival spans over 2 days. Its grand theme and humble local people represent the festival’s enthusiasm organized at the base of Mount Jomolhari.
The main attraction is the ‘Snow Leopard Show’ aimed at raising awareness about the decreasing snow leopard population in the area. Locals in their traditional attire dance to folk songs.
This 3-day celebration is filled with traditional folk dances and vibrant costumes. Don’t miss the main attraction, the mask dances when locals seek blessings and pray for deliverance from misfortunes.
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The festival reaches its climax with a rare performance of a giant silk thangka (embroidered painting) depicting Guru Padmasambhava and other important deities.
The Nomad Festival is an annual celebration in Bumthang where nomadic people from across Bhutan come together to celebrate. This festival introduces the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of these nomadic people.
Prominent events include the royal procession of Chipdrel and rows of stalls displaying various art, crafts, and different local cuisine.
The Takin Festival is held in the Jigmi Dorji National Park of Gasa Dzongkhag. The takin is a rare species that faces the risk of extinction worldwide but thrives in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
The festival provides a rare opportunity for tourists to witness Bhutan’s national animal in its natural habitat during the summer months.
It also helps nomadic tribes earn a living for the rest of the year. They display and sell yak wool tents, prepare traditional food, and offer local handicrafts, yak butter, and cheese.
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