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In Bhutan, the biggest draw for travelers is the annual religious festivals held in all districts. People from all corners of the country attend the festivities in their finest attires decorated with valuable jewels and ornaments. As much as festivals display the rich cultural and religious history of Bhutan, they are also a means for people to parade their collections of Bhutanese textile. Families gather and feast on elaborate packed lunches, picnicking in circles splayed out around the monasteries.
What appears as a gala fest of mask dances and people in bright attire is actually one of profound religious significance to the Bhutanese. These festivals are enactments of the teachings of Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche , devised centuries ago so that the laity would understand. To attend the festival is to be blessed. Among the solemn mask dancers, you will spot certain ones mingling with the crowds conjuring laughter. These are the Atsaras, the Bhutanese clowns. The timing of the festivals has also been set ingeniously after the harvest so that people can celebrate a year of hard work on the farm.
Performed at Jambay Lhakhang, an 8th century monastery, this festival spotlights several exciting dances. The fire ceremony, Mewang, is a unique dance performed under flames where crowds walk through a gate of huge fireworks as a means to drive away evil spirits. When night falls, we mingle amongst the locals to witness the Tercham which translates to ‘Treasure Dance’. This dance is the main feature of the festival where masked dancers dance naked at the outskirts of the monastery to purify sins and augur a good harvest.
Punakha Dromchoe Festival takes place in the Punakha Dzong or Fortress. The Dzong stands majestically anchored between the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers constructing a beautiful sight to see. To attend the festival, people have to walk through a wooden cantilever bridge built across the Mo Chhu river leading to the fortress. This festival is a commemoration of the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan army in the 17th century. Storytelling is a powerful tool and the Punakha festival recounts the events of the battle. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dressed in battle gear with a fierce war cry imitate the battle fought to safeguard this Dzong from Tibetan invaders.
The biggest festival conjointly the most popular festival of Bhutan is the Thimphu Tshechu. It is held in Thimphu Dzong, the capital of Bhutan. This Tshechu sees the biggest crowd among any other festival in the country. Thousands gather adorned in their finest attires, embellished with extravagant ornaments to attend this festival and also as a means to exhibit the beauty of Bhutanese textile. People from all walks of life come to participate in the festivities and witness the elaborate mask dances. This national Tshechu is a must-not-miss as it is an accumulation of the unique textile, rich culture, and compelling religious history of Bhutan.
Dongochang Village: 14-15 Oct, 2021
Trashiyangtse: 15 March, 2021
Trashigang: 12-14 Nov, 2021
Haa: 10-11 July, 2021
Trashigang: 17 - 20 Oct, 2020
Gangtey: 11 Nov, 2021
Dochula: 13 Dec, 2021
There are festivals being held in different places in different times of the year. You can pick any one of your choice and customize with other trips.
1. Why do we celebrate Tshechu in Bhutan?
Tshechus are grand events/festivals held every year in each district where people gather in their best attire to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings, and socialize. It is believed that onlookers are blessed and cleansed of any sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it. Many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during Guru Padmasambhava’s (the great spiritual master) life. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks, and in remote villages, they are performed jointly by monks and village men. In addition to the mask dances, the festival also includes colorful traditional Bhutanese dances.
2. What is the main festival in Bhutan?
The two most popular Tshechus in the country is the Paro and Thimphu festival in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals, many tourists worldwide are attracted to the unique, colorful, and exciting festival.
As the Tshechu festival holds a great religious significance, it is held on the 10th day of a lunar month corresponding to Guru Rimpoche’s birthday. However, the exact month of the Tshechu varies from district to district.
No, there is no extra cost for adding a festival to your itinerary. If there is a festival or an event during your travel frame, we will add it to the program to make your Bhutan trip most memorable.
Read Bhutan travel cost to have a better idea of what is included and not included for the $250 USD you pay.
Yes, we provide personal and customized trips to design an itinerary best suited to your taste. We can add trekking along with city tours and festivals, if any, during your time of travel.