Of recent, festivals in Bhutan have emerged from environmental and conservational needs like the takin, black-necked crane and nomad festivals. Tshechus however remain the dominant festival, and unlike the new festivals, it is ingrained in religious and spiritual tradition and culture of Bhutan.
Tshechu means the tenth day. It is an auspicious day on the Bhutanese Buddhist calendar (lunar calendar) and a day one should remember the 18th Century saint, Guru Rinpoche, the lotus born who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan. It is believed it is on this day, if one recalls and pray to Guru Rinpoche, he will appear to the person.
On this auspicious day, tshechus are performed in different districts and communities. When communities or lhakhangs and monasteries observe it depend on a variety of factors like farming season and other holidays.
The timing factor is important because it is a grand event where the community is expected to come together. The festival is a time for socializing and witnessing and receiving blessing from the sacred mask dances. The two most popular tsechus in the country are the Thimphu and Paro tshechu for the number of people it attracts.
The highlights of the festivals are the mask dances, the thongdrol of Guru Rinpoche, which is unfurled at dawn. The thongdrol is believed to cleanse one of sins and defilements simply by viewing it. Mask dances carry the same values, and it also prepares one for the afterlife.
The tshechus are like open-air threatre with the mask and other dances dramatic performances about the good VS evil, of morality, sins, sinners and the virtuous.
Some of the symbolic dances are the Dance of the Four Stags (Sha cham), Dance of the Heroes (Pacham), Black Hat Dance (Zhana), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg), Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag), Dance of the Rakshas and the Judgement of Dead (Ragsha Mangcham) and the Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Tshen Gye).
The mask dances are performed by monks and in communities where there is not enough monks, lay people participate.
Tshechu festivals are between three to five days.
Tentative Festival dates 2014
|PUNAKHA DRUBCHEN||PUNAKHA||6th – 10th Mar|
|PUNAKHA TSHECHU||PUNAKHA||11th – 13th Mar|
|CHHORTEN KORA||TRASHIYANGTSHE||16th Mar & 30th Mar|
|GOMPHUKORA||TRASHIGANG||7th – 9th Apr|
|PARO TSHECHU||PARO||11th – 15th Apr|
|CHHUKHA TSHECHU||CHHUKHA||13th – 15th Apr|
|URA YAKCHOE||BUMTHANG||10th – 14th May|
|NIMALUNG TSHECHU||BUMTHANG||5th – 7th Jun|
|KURJEY TSHECHU||BUMTHANG||7th Jun|
|TOUR OF THE DRAGON (BICYCLE RACE)||BUMTHANG TO THIMPHU||6th Sep|
|THIMPHU DRUBCHEN||THIMPHU||28th Sept. – 2nd Oct|
|WANGDUE TSHECHU||WANGDUEPHODRANG||1st – 3rd Oct|
|TAMSHING PHALA CHHOEPA||BUMTHANG||2nd – 4th Oct|
|THIMPHU TSHECHU||THIMPHU||3rd – 5th Oct|
|GASA TSHECHU||GASA||3rd – 5th Oct|
|THANGBI MANI||BUMTHANG||7th – 9th Oct|
|JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUP||BUMTHANG||6th – 10th Nov|
|PRAKHAR DUCHHOED||BUMTHANG||7th – 9th Nov|
|BLACK NECKED CRANE FESTIVAL||WANGDUEPHODRANG||11th Nov|
|MONGAR TSHECHU||MONGAR||28th Nov – 1st Dec|
|TRASHIGANG TSHECHU||TRASHIGANG||29th Nov. – 2nd Dec|
|NALAKHAR TSHECHU||BUMTHANG||6th – 8th Dec|
|DRUK WANGYEL TSHECHU||DOCHULA, THIMPHU||13th Dec|
|TRONGSA TSHECHU||TRONGSA||30th Dec – 1st Jan 2015|
|LHUENTSE TSHECHU||LHUENTSE||30th Dec. – 1st Jan 2015|