festivals are important events throughout the
Tibetan Buddhist world - commemorating the deeds
of Buddha, or those of the great masters of
the past associated with one Buddhist tradition
In Bhutan, in addition to the standard Buddhist
festivals, there are yearly festivals celebrated
with great fanfare in each district. The most
renowned of these are the Tsechu
(10th day) festivals, commemorating the deeds
of Padmasambhava. Locally referred to
as 'Guru Rimpoche' or, simply as 'Guru,'
this eighth century master, introduced the Nyingma
school of Buddhism into Tibet and Bhutan. Each
10th day of the lunar calendar is said to commemorate
a special event in the life of Padmasambhava;
and some of these are dramatized in the context
of a religious festival. Most festival lasts
from three to five days - one of which, usually,
falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar.
The regional Dzong and remote village
communities hold their distinct annual Tsechu
festival, providing the local populace with
a wonderful occasion to dress up, gather together,
and enjoy, in a convivial light-hearted atmosphere.
It is also an occasion to renew their faith
and receive blessings by watching the sacred
dances, or receiving 'empowerment' from a lama
or Buddhist monk.
The dances, each aspect of which has a symbolic
meaning, are performed by trained monks and
laymen wearing ornate costumes, and, in some
cases, impressive masks. At Paro, Wangdu, Mongar
and Tashigang, among other places, a large 'thanka'
scroll known as a Tongdrol is
exhihited for a few hours, at day break of the
final day of the festival, enabling the people
to obtain its blessing, since such scrolls 'confer
liberation by the mere sight of it' (tongdrol
Of these festivals the Paro Tsechu, in the spring,
and the Wangue and Thimpu Tsechus, in the fall,
are the most impressive. These festivals are
very popular with western tourists. The festivals
in Bumthang and East Bhutan attract fewer tourists
and those who want to get a more authentic flavor
of Bhutan's cultural and religious extravaganza
will be well rewarded.
These festivals attract many western tourist
and hotels and flights are sold out months in
advance to organized tourist group. Anyone who
wishes to visit Bhutan during these festivals
should plan and make their tour arrangements
well in advance.