- Brief :-
- Thimphu |
- Punakha |
- Paro |
- Jomolhari |
- Nomad Festival |
- Nimalung Festival |
- Druk Wangyel Festival |
- Takin Festival |
- Black - Necked Crane Festival |
- Chorten Kora Festival |
Tshechu is a religious festival meaning “tenth day” held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country.
The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.
Tshechus are grand events where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. . In addition to the mask dances tshechus also include colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment.
It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men.
Two of the most popular Tshechus in the country are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus in terms of participation and audience. Besides the locals many tourists from across the world are attracted to these unique, colorful and exciting displays of traditional culture.
One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of which travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.
When it was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances being performed strictly by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (Dances of the 21 Black Hats), Durdag (Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground), and the Tungam chham (Dance of the Terrifying Deities).
The Thimphu Tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). These additions added colour and variation to the festival without compromising its spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage-theater.
Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to entrance evil forces and prevent them from causing harm during Tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.
To farmers, the Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It’s an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.
Besides the annual three day Tshechu, Thimphu also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu Dromchoe. The day long festival dates back to the 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The dromchoe is celebrated 3 days prior to the Thimphu Tshechu.
The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the chief protective deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Dromchoe.
PUNAKHA TSHECHU AND DRUBCHEN
Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan is the winter home of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. Punakha has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century.
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the distinct cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene. This reenactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.
In 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local peopleto host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
These two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.
The Paro Tshechu is held every spring and is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro Dzongkhag (district).
The Tsehchu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) , the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong. Thongdrols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze viewers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdrol is said to cleanse the viewer of sin.
JOMOLHARI MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL
The festival celebrates the culture of the communities living in close proximity to endangered snow leopards.
“A community based initiative for the conservation of snow leopards”
Jomolhari Mountain Festival is an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated at the base of Mt. Jomolhari, by communities located along one of the most scenic trekking routes in Bhutan.
The festival celebrates the culture of the communities living together with the natural wonders that surround them: one in particular, the elusive, yet elegant, snow leopard! This endangered cat thrives in the region; several camera trap photos and definite signs have established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan.
The communities of Soe Yaksa and Soe Yutoed, located along the Jomolhari trek, in collaboration with Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED) – with support from the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) and Bhutan Foundation – bring together this festival as a community based initiative towards the conservation of snow leopard; to create awareness on the importance of conservation; engage and build on the perception and attitude to create harmony between this endangered cat and the people; provide a platform to bring in opportunities for sustainable livelihood, and promote their culture.
The festival includes snow leopard themed folk songs and dances performed by the local people, JDNP staff and the school children, traditional sports such as Khuru (darts), shot put, horse and yak riding, sampling of local delicacies and boutique handicrafts, and various picturesque guided hikes in and around Jomolhari. It also showcases various stalls set up by both local and international agencies to educate and promote conservation among those participating at the festival.
The festival was initiated in 2013 and endorsed by the government as an annual event.
JOMOLHARI SNOW LEOPARD CONSERVATION PROGRAM
The Jomolhari trek is one of the most popular trekking routes in Bhutan and passes through prime snow leopard and blue sheep habitat. Numerous camera trap photos, signs, and DNA sampling from the region has established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan. The two communities of Soe Yutoed and Soe Yaksa lie along the Jomolhari trek. Yutoed has 28 households and Yaksa 18. The residents are primarily yak herders as the area is mostly above tree line. While yak predation is prevalent in the area, herders have generally been tolerant of some level of predation all along. However, public attitudes and perception towards snow leopards are fast changing.
When community members begin to see real, tangible benefits from snow leopard conservation, they are more likely to support it. If a conservation program has buy-in and ownership of the local residents, it is more likely to be sustainable in the long run. These are the foundations on which the Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program is built.
The Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program is a community initiative supported by the Jigme Dorji National Park, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division, the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Bhutan Foundation. It aims to guide tangible benefits of snow leopard conservation to the local residents so that the snow leopard is seen as an asset rather than a liability, and hence something to be treasured. It seeks to use the snow leopard as the focus for holistic development of the communities through the following:
Reduction of GID disease in yak (one of the highest causes of yak mortality)
Offsetting livestock predation through livestock insurance
Income generation through home stays
Income generation through boutique handicraft sales
Snow leopard and prey monitoring by community members and park
Instituting snow leopard festival as an annual tourism event
Using Soe Yutoed School for increasing awareness on snow leopard conservation
This annual gathering of Bhutan’s nomadic highlanders brings together the herders of the northeastern and northwestern Himalayan frontiers in an unforgettable celebration of their unique culture and traditions.
You’ll gain an intimate glimpse into the proud communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
Dine on delicious traditional recipes whilst sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as families from this region have done for untold ages.
Dress like a Bhutanese highlander and try on an entire costume spun from yak hair, including the Brokpa black hat with five long fringes down the front or the conical bamboo Layap headgear. Ladies can wear the wide, beautiful hand-woven aprons decorated with colorful motifs of flowers and animals traditionally worn by women. They can even have their hair plaited and decorated with colorful ribbons in the traditional style of the region.
The festival will give you the opportunity to witness the grand pageantry of the Chipdrel, a ceremonial procession usually reserved for royalty.
Adventurous visitors will definitely want to try some yak riding.
Immerse yourself in the festival-wide demonstrations of traditional Bhutanese village life including using ancient mill-stones for grinding maize, husking harvested rice and tilling fields with ox-drawn ploughs.
Attain inner peace as you visit some of the most exquisite Buddhist temples in Bhutan.
The Nomad festival is held in Bumthang Dzongkhag (district) in central Bhutan the spiritual heartland of the country. Bumthang is approximately an 8 hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu.
Nimalung Lhakhang is located in Chumey in Bumthang. It is approximately a 15 minute drive from the road that branches off from the village of Chumey.
The Lhakhang was co-founded by Dasho Gonpo Dorji and Doring Trulku Jamyang Kunzang, the third mind-aspect reincarnation of Terton Jigme Lingpa in 1935.
The main relic of the two-storied temple is a magnificent statue of Guru Rimpoche. The monastery is decorated with murals of the Nyingmapa and Drukpa traditions. There are also paintings of Guru Rimpoche and his disciples, the lineage of Terton Pema Lingpa, and several Buddhist masters affiliated with the monastery.
One of the most important festivals held at the Lhakhang is the Kaling Zhitro Drubchen. It was initiated by Doring Trulku and he was the first person to have started the rite in Bhutan. It is held on the first fifteen days of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar.
The local Tshechu is held once a year in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar. During the Tshechu an awe-inspiring Thongdrol (gigantic scroll painting) of Guru Rimpoche is put on display for attendees. The Thongdrol is nine meters long and twelve meters wide and in addition to inspiring wonder is said to cleanse the sins of all those who look upon it. The Thongdrol which was donated by Lopen Pemala and was consecrated in June 1994 in the presence of a large crowd of villagers by Lhalung Thuksey Rimpoche, the reincarnation of mental aspect of Pema Lingpa. During the festival, a series of colorful and spectacular mask dances are performed.
DOCHULA DRUK WANGYEL FESTIVAL
The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival was established in 2011 in commemoration of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Armed Forces’ victory over Indian insurgent forces residing in southern Bhutan in 2003.
Druk Wangyel Festival is an annual festival held on December 13th at the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Festival Ground located at Dochula Pass around 22km from the capital city Thimphu. Dochula Pass is one of the most scenic locations in the entire kingdom, offering a stunning panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. Set amidst this breathtaking backdrop, the Dochula Druk Wangyal Tsehchu is an experience unlike any other and truely exemplifies Bhutanese cultural traditions.
The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang was built over a period of four years (2004-2008) under the vision and patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo. The Lhakhang honors the courageous service of the Fourth King, who personally led the troops against the insurgents, as well as the regular Armed Forces of the country
The Takin Festival is your once in a lifetime opportunity to get an up close look at Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) in their native summer grazing grounds. Despite being a rare and endangered species around the world, there are still thriving populations of this majestic animal in Bhutan. You won’t want to miss this chance to admire their unique physique and natural agility.
The festival is set in Gasa Dzongkhag within Jigme Dorji National Park, the second largest national preserve in the country. The park encompasses areas that are rich in temperate biodiversity and medicinal plants. This picturesque area offers spectacular views of awe-inspiring natural beauty where you find a treasured heritage that has nurtured environmental conservation for generations.
At the festival you’ll have the opportunity to engage in some of the finest trekking available anywhere in the world, bathe in soothing mineral hot-spring baths, see and purchase exquisitely crafted local handicrafts including yak wool tents, dresses and carpets, bamboo and leather products and much more. Sample some of the delicious local cuisine as you sit around a traditional stone hearth used by the nomads for generations.
Gasa is approximately a 5 hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu and 2.5 hours from Punakha Dzongkhag. Once past Punakha the road is unpaved but passes through beautiful canopies of broadleaved forests, the home of the elusive Bengal Tiger and the winter habitat of the takin. The journey is an experience in itself as you’ll be awed by the lush vegetation and sparkling waterfalls set against a backdrop of towering Himalayan peaks.
Come and experience the eternal culture of these ancient people. The Takin festival is waiting for you.
THE ANNUAL BLACK-NECKED CRANE FESTIVAL -11TH NOVEMBER
The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part their daily lives during the winter months.
The annual black-necked crane festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes; to strengthen the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community; provide an avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the black-necked cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.
The festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by the school children. The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon.
The festival is organized by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders (with a strong female component), Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) representative. The festival has become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley ever since it was first initiated by the RSPN in 1998.
Nestled in the inner Himalayas at about 3000 metres above sea level, Phobjikha is a wide alpine wetland valley that is considered the largest and the most significant wetland in the country. It is often cited for the harmonious co‐existence of its inhabitants with nature and the valley also holds great cultural significance. The valley is the most significant wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐necked cranes in Bhutan and has been protected since time immemorial by the local people’s traditional respect for all living beings. Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to Bhutan spend their winter months in this valley. Additionally, the highly revered Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the wetlands surrounded by subsistence farms and natural forest areas makes Phobjikha a stunningly beautiful and sacred valley. Today, this glacial valley is an attraction not just to tourists but also pilgrims.
Besides being the home to the cranes, Phobjikha is also the livelihood base for about 5000 subsistence farmers who have aspirations for economic development. Since the early 1990s, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan’s only environmental NGO initiated an integrated conservation and development program with the sole objective of establishing a strong linkage between environment conservation and economic welfare of the local people. This approach was instituted because the RSPN felt that an unguided pursuit for economic development by the local community could not only severely undermine the ecological significance of the area but may also adversely affect the local livelihoods.
The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is an integral part of the Ecotourism (now Community based-sustainable tourism) initiative to promote local economic welfare through nature based tourism programs.
The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely upon the support and contributions of the visitors and well wishers of conservation. Continued appreciation and corresponding support are essential in maintaining strong linkages between conservation and economic welfare of the local people. By viewing and participating in the festival you reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through the Black-necked crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community owned bank account and managed by the committee for activities of common benefit to the community.
CHORTEN KORA FESTIVAL
The Chorten Kora Festival is set in Trashiyangtse, the easternmost district of Bhutan. To arrive in Trashiyangtse you must drive for two hours from Trashigang following the banks of Dangmechu and Kholungchu rivers.
Dakpa Kora is held on the 15th day of the 3rd month corresponding to 28th February and Drukpa Kora (circumbulation by the Bhutanese) is held on the 30th day corresponding to 15th March every year (Check with your tour operator to confirm these dates).
The Chorten (Stupa) was built by Lama Ngawang Loday in 1740on the site where a demon was subdued. The chorten was dedicated to the memory of his late uncle, Jungshu Pesan. It is believed to be a replica of the Boudhnath stupa in Nepal and was consecrated by the 13th chief Abbot of Bhutan Je Sherub Wangchuk. Today, it is considered one of the most important historical Buddhist structures.
It chorten was built so that pilgrims could visit the temple in Trashiyangtse instead of making a trip to Nepal. Further, a legend states that a young girl from Tawang, believed to have been a Khando (Dakini) agreed to be buried alive inside the Chorten. For this reason a ritual known as Dakpa Kora is organized every year where hundreds of people from Arunachal Pradesh known as the Dakpas make it to Chorten Kora to circumambulate.