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 or another.
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.