Bhutan Tshechus and Festivals

Masked Dancers at Bhutan Festival

Masked Dancers at Bhutan Festival (photo courtesy of SITA, India).

For years, Bhutan’s vibrant cultural traditions were hidden from the world. Today, travelers can experience some of the most intriguing customs in this tiny country, including the colorful religious celebrations known as tshechus. Check out some of the best festivals in Bhutan.

Thimphu Tschechu
This is one of the biggest festivals in the country. Held for three days in the capital city of Thimpu (beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar), this tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. There are masked dances performed by lay monks, including the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru) and Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags). To farmers, the tshechu is seen as a break from everyday life—an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.

Paro Tshechu
The Paro Tshechu is held every spring and is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro Dzongkhag (district). Early in the morning on the last day of the celebration, monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) known as a throngdrol. Thongdrols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze travelers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing one is said to cleanse the viewer of sin.

Punakha Drubchen
The Punakha Drubchen, which takes place in the western part of Bhutan, hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army. The “pazaps” (local militiamen) dress in traditional combat gear and reenact the ancient battle when men from eight villages came together to expel the invading forces. Their victory ushered in a period of internal peace and stability.

Punakha Tshechu
The Punakha Tsechu takes places immediately after the conclusion of the Punakha Drubchen. These two Bhutan festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions—they also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. These festivals reflect the richness of the country’s cultural heritage and are very special to the Bhutanese and those travelers lucky enough to witness them.

Wangduephodrang Tshechu
This three-day annual tshechu provides the people with an occasion for merrymaking and revelry. The tshechu is known for the Raksha Mangcham, or the Dance of the Ox. It concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol where people gather to receive blessings.

Note: Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag Dzong was destroyed by fire on June 24, 2012. Plans are underway to re-build. While the tshechu will take place going forward, please confirm the location with Geringer Global Travel.

The Black-necked Crane Festival
The annual Black-necked Crane Festival is celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. This is a celebration of an endangered and majestic bird that becomes an inseparable part the locals’ daily lives during the winter months. With a focus on strengthening the linkages between conservation, economic welfare and the sustainable livelihoods of the community, this festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and “crane dances”, as well as conservation-themed performances by local school children.

Nimalung Festival
Nimalung Tsechu is one of the most unique celebrations in Bhutan every year. During this festival held in Bumthang, a series of colorful and spectacular mask dances are performed, and an awe-inspiring thongdrol (gigantic scroll painting) of Guru Rimpoche is put on display.

Jambay Lhakhang Festival
One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, the Jambay Lhakhang Festival is held in October and lasts for five days. The highlight of this gathering is the fire ritual, when crowds gather to witness a naked dance. Jambay Lhakhang takes place in Bumthang.

Kurjey Festival
The festival takes place at Kurjey Temple, located in the Bumthang district. It brings together tourists and Bhutanese from all over as they witness age-old mask dances amid the natural beauty of Bhutan’s spiritual heartland.

Matsutake Festival
Celebrate the start of another mushroom season alongside the people of Ura, Bhutan. At this festival, visitors will learn to identify these fabled fungi as they embark on mushroom picking excursions around the pristine forests and hills. They’ll be able to sample delicious Matsutake recipes, engage in songs and dances with the locals, hike through the stunning Himalayan landscape and even relax in traditional open-air mineral baths.

Merak Tshechu
Merak Valley is located in eastern Bhutan within the Trashigang Dzongkhag (district), and remains largely uninfluenced by the outside world. The Merak Tshechu is an annual three-day event and provides the local group called Brokpas—whose way of life has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years—with some much needed respite from their daily cattle herding routine. Beside the dances that are performed throughout the dzongs and lhakhangs, the Brokpas also perform their unique traditional dances like the Ache Lhamo and the Yak Dance.

Enrich your tour in Bhutan—and immerse yourself in the local culture—by experiencing an authentic local festival. Depending on when you plan to travel, we can customize your Bhutan itinerary to include a fair, festival or cultural celebration. Contact Geringer Global Travel at 877-255-7438 or email us at info@geringerglobaltravel.com to discuss how we can create a personalized Bhutan tour for you.