The Festivals of Bhutan
Have you ever seen monks performing sacred Cham dances alongside cymbals smashing whilst horns are blowing? From folklore performances to naughty clowns – locals flock from the surrounding villages dressed in their best clothes to receive blessings and watch the festivals. Bhutan’s festivals are known as tshechus. These are Buddhist festivals in honour of the Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava, popularly known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’, the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan.
Here are a handful of festivals celebrated in Bhutan which make for an incredible experience when visiting this beautiful and intriguing country:
Bhutanese festival dates do have a habit of changing so we keep our eye closely on the calendar. If we are building a festival into your itinerary we work on the most up to date information there is (and assume nothing).
5th to 7th December 2019 – 22nd to 25th November 2020
This festival takes place in the courtyard of Trashigang Dzong which is perched on a cliff overlooking two rivers. Pilgrims gather around the edge and monks look out from balconies on the first and second floors. The view of the Trashigang from these balconies is magnificent. As the monks perform their dances their swirling robes appear as spinning tops on the stone paved floor. Pilgrims travel from as far as the Indian border and Brokpas (a semi-nomadic community) make the journey from Merak and Sakteng.
4th to 6th December 2019 – 21st to 24th November 2020
The region of Mongar in eastern Bhutan is famous for its exquisite wood carvings and is known as the ‘Bastion of the Zhongarps’. The exciting and colourful three day tshechu is held here annually in November and is witnessed by people from as far as Trashigang and Lhuentse. The festival offers numerous mask dances and is one of the most important events the area has to offer.
Druk Wangyel Tshechu (Dochu Laa)
13th December 2019 – 13th December 2020
The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.
14th to 16th March 2019 – 1st to 3rd April 2020
Gomphukora is one of the temples where Guru Rinpoche, the great tantric mystic, meditated. It is a small temple in front of a huge black rock, where he is said to have vanquished a local demon in the shape of a snake. Each spring, people from all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in all their finery, to partake in the festivities, worship and to reunite themselves with their past. Traditionally, this festival was an occasion for the people of eastern Bhutan, to choose their spouse.
17th to 21st March 2019 – 4th to 8th April 2020
The five-day Paro Tsechu is held each spring, from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar – usually late March or April – at the Paro Dzong (Rinchen Pung Dzong). This Tsechu is one of the largest festivals in Bhutan with pilgrims travelling from neighbouring districts to participate in the festivities. The first day of the festival is usually held in the courtyard of the Dzong and includes dances such as the ‘Black Hat Dance’ or ‘Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort’. On the final day, a giant appliqué thangka or Thondrol, is unrolled and displayed before dawn.
You can see a few of our favourite images and videos here
Do you want to join the fun and spectacle of a Bhutanese Festival? Check out some of our itineraries for inspiration and talk to us about creating one just for you that takes in a colourful festival.
Some of the other festivals, which are perhaps not as widely celebrated, are as follows: