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Festivals

At various times throughout the year, annual festivals known as “tsechus” take place around the country, but there are other festivals too. Tsechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of the Buddhist Saint, Padmasambhava, popularly known as “Guru Rinpoche” in our mountain kingdom.

All of Guru Rinpoche’s great deeds are believed to have taken place on the 10th day of the month, which is the meaning of the word tsechu, and all tsechus do in fact take place/begin on 10th days. All the districts, dzongs and a large number of villages in the east, hold annual tsechus, which attract people from far and wide.

Tsechus are celebrated for several days (usually between three and five, depending on where it is taking place) and are the occasion for dances that are clearly defined in religious content. They can be performed by monks, laymen or gomchens and the repertory is more or less the same everywhere.

Certain tsechus end with the veneration of a huge appliqué thangkha, called a “thongdroel”. The thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring enlightenment to all who view it. Festival goers believe that by simply viewing this thongdroel, they can be delivered from the cycle of birth and rebirth, which is the ultimate aim of Buddhism.

Some tsechus also have a “wang”, a collective verbal blessing given by a high lama. Colored threads are distributed, and people tie them around their necks as witness to the blessing. Sometimes the wang is called “mewang” meaning “blessing by fire” which burns away their impurities. Atsaras are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are an indispensable element in any religious festival. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics whenever the religious dances begin to grow tedious.

Believed to represent Acharyas, religious masters of India, they are the only people permitted to mock religion in a society where sacred matters are treated with the highest respect. For a few days, these popular entertainers are allowed the freedom to express a formulaic challenge within an established framework that does not, however, upset the social and religious order.

Some religious festivals include only a few dances and consist mostly of readings from a particular text.

On these occasions, villagers assemble in a temple and participate in the prayers while at the same time drinking strong alcoholic beverages. Each village takes pride in its annual religious festival, and any villagers who have gone to live in the city are usually expected to come back home for it. Such villagers will themselves sponsor a large part of the cost of mounting the festival.

For the Bhutanese, attendance at religious festivals offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and to gain much merit. The festivals are also occasions for seeing people, and for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success. People bring out their finest clothes, their most beautiful jewelry, and enjoy picnics with abundant alcohol and meat. Men and women joke and flirt with one another. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humor prevails.

Village Festivals: Many small village festivals are held in the winter months. The weather is very settled across Bhutan at this time of the year. The clear blue skies and crisp air offer splendid opportunities for the committed photographer, especially for those using slide medium. Please contact Etho Metho for dates/places of forthcoming winter festivals. A winter journey to seldom visited eastern Bhutan, with participation in such a festival, would be an unforgettable experience.

Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground.

The conduct of the onlooker should be governed with this in mind. The dancers, whether monks or laymen, are in a state of meditation. They transform themselves into the deities which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.

With this in mind, it should be clear that obtrusive, disrespectful or discourteous behavior is out of place. Remember, too, that smoking is not permitted in public places in Bhutan.

The dance ground is not a place to eat, drink, talk or laugh loudly at inappropriate times, flash cameras or intrude on the dance space. Common courtesy should rule one’s action when photographing dances or onlookers. Festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are not held as tourist attractions. They are genuine manifestations of religious traditions thousands of years old which outsiders are given the privilege of witnessing.

We would like to see that privilege retained, without in any way impairing or infringing on the beauty and sacredness of the ritual. Please bear in mind that some past actions of unthinking visitors have caused shock and dismay to the local people. Any recurrence of such unfortunate events may lead to future restrictions on attendance at festivals.

We hope that our tour members will always display courtesy, sensitivity and respect to the people of Bhutan who have welcomed them to attend these beautiful and sacred events, and will visibly demonstrate their respect by dressing as well as their circumstances permit on such occasions.

NameTownStart DateEnd Date
Punakha DrubchenPunakhaMar 02, 2020Mar 04, 2020
Punakha TshechuPunakhaMar 05, 2020Mar 07, 2020
Chhorten KoraTrashi YangtseMar 09, 2020Mar 24, 2020
Tharpaling ThongdrolBumthangMar 09, 2020 
Zhemgang TshechuZhemgangApr 01, 2020Apr 03, 2020
Talo TshechuPunakhaApr 01, 2020Apr 03, 2020
Gasa TshechuGasaApr 01, 2020Apr 03, 2020
GomphukoraTrashigangApr 01, 2020Apr 03, 2020
Paro TshechuParoApr 04, 2020Apr 08, 2020
Rhododendron FestivalThimphuApr 17, 2020Apr 19, 2020
Domkhar TshechuBumthangMay 02, 2020May 04, 2020
Ura YakchoeBumthangMay 04, 2020May 08, 2020
Nimalung TshechuBumthangJun 28, 2020Jun 30, 2020
Kurjey TshechuBumthangJun 30, 2020 
Haa Summer FestivalHaa ValleyJul 11, 2020Jul 12, 2020
Mushroom FestivalThimphuAug 15, 2020Aug 16, 2020
Tour of the DragonBumthangSep 05, 2020 
Thimphu DrubchenThimphuSep 22, 2020 
Wangdue TshechuWangdue PhodrangSep 24, 2020Sep 26, 2020
Tamshing Phala ChhoepaBumthangSep 26, 2020Sep 28, 2020
Thimphu TshechuThimphuSep 26, 2020Sep 28, 2020
Gangtey TshechuWangdue PhodrangSep 29, 2020Oct 01, 2020
Thangbi ManiBumthangSep 30, 2020Oct 02, 2020
Jhomolhari Mountain FestivalThimphuOct 14, 2020Oct 15, 2020
Jakar TshechuBumthangOct 23, 2020Oct 27, 2020
Royal Highland FestivalGasaOct 23, 2020Oct 24, 2020
Chhukha TshechuChukhaOct 24, 2020Oct 26, 2020
Dechenphu TshechuThimphuOct 26, 2020 
Jambay Lhakhang DrupBumthangOct 31, 2020Nov 03, 2020
Prakhar DuchhoedBumthangNov 01, 2020Nov 03, 2020
Bhutan Bird FestivalZhemgangNov 11, 2020Nov 13, 2020
Black Necked Crane FestivalWangdue PhodrangNov 11, 2020 
Pemagatshel TshechuPemagatshelNov 21, 2020Nov 24, 2020
Trashigang TshechuTrashigangNov 22, 2020Nov 24, 2020
Mongar TshechuMongarNov 22, 2020Nov 24, 2020
Nalakhar TshechuBumthangNov 30, 2020Dec 02, 2020
Jambay Lhakhang Singye ChamBumthangNov 30, 2020 
Druk Wangyel TshechuThimphuDec 13, 2020 
Lhuentse TshechuLhuentseDec 23, 2020Dec 25, 2020
Trongsa TshechuTrongsaDec 23, 2020Dec 25, 2020
Nabji Lhakhang DrupTrongsaDec 29, 2020Dec 31, 2020
NameTownStart DateEnd Date
Punakha DrubchenPunakhaFeb 19, 2021Feb 21, 2021
Punakha TshechuPunakhaFeb 22, 2021Feb 24, 2021
Tharpaling ThongdrolBumthangFeb 27, 2021 
Talo TshechuPunakhaMar 21, 2021Mar 23, 2021
Zhemgang TshechuZhemgangMar 21, 2021Mar 23, 2021
GomphukoraTrashigangMar 21, 2021Mar 23, 2021
Gasa TshechuGasaMar 21, 2021Mar 23, 2021
Paro TshechuParoMar 21, 2021Mar 23, 2021
Chhorten KoraTrashi YangtseMar 28, 2021Apr 11, 2021
Rhododendron FestivalThimphuApr 16, 2021Apr 18, 2021
Domkhar TshechuBumthangApr 22, 2021Apr 24, 2021
Ura YakchoeBumthangApr 25, 2021Apr 27, 2021
Nimalung TshechuBumthangJun 18, 2021Jun 20, 2021
Kurjey TshechuBumthangJun 20, 2021 
Haa Summer FestivalHaa ValleyJul 10, 2021Jul 11, 2021
Mushroom FestivalThimphuAug 15, 2021Aug 16, 2021
Tour of the Dragon (Bicycle Race)BumthangSep 04, 2021 
Thimphu DrubchenThimphuSep 12, 2021 
Wangdue TshechuWangdue PhodrangSep 14, 2021Sep 16, 2021
Tamshing Phala ChhoepaBumthangSep 16, 2021Sep 18, 2021
Thimphu TshechuThimphuSep 16, 2021Sep 20, 2021
Thangbi ManiBumthangSep 18, 2021Sep 21, 2021
Gangtey TshechuGangteySep 18, 2021Sep 20, 2021
Chhukha TshechuChukhaOct 13, 2021Oct 15, 2021
Jakar TshechuBumthangOct 13, 2021Oct 15, 2021
Jhomolhari Mountain FestivalThimphuOct 14, 2021Oct 15, 2021
Dechenphu TshechuThimphuOct 15, 2021 
Jambay Lhakhang DrupBumthangOct 20, 2021Oct 22, 2021
Prakhar DuchhoedBumthangOct 21, 2021Oct 23, 2021
Royal Highland FestivalGasaOct 23, 2021Oct 24, 2021
Bhutan Bird FestivalZhemgangNov 11, 2021Nov 13, 2021
Black Necked Crane FestivalWangdue PhodrangNov 11, 2021 
Mongar TshechuMongarNov 12, 2021Nov 14, 2021
Trashigang TshechuTrashigangNov 12, 2021Nov 14, 2021
Pemagatshel TshechuPemagatshelNov 12, 2021Nov 14, 2021
Nalakhar TshechuBumthangNov 19, 2021Nov 21, 2021
Jambay Lhakhang Singye ChamBumthangNov 19, 2021 
Trongsa TshechuTrongsaDec 11, 2021Dec 13, 2021
Lhuentse TshechuLhuentseDec 11, 2021Dec 13, 2021
Druk Wangyel TshechuThimphuDec 13, 2021 
Samdrupjongkhar TshechuSamdrup JongkharDec 16, 2021Dec 18, 2021
Nabji Lhakhang DrubTrongsaDec 18, 2021Dec 20, 2021
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