Bhutanese Festivals

Nature At Its Best

Thimpu Tsechu
Tsechu, which means the 10th day is the yearly religious Bhutanese festival held in each district of Bhutan. Tschechus are actually held to honor the Guru Rinpoche who brought a tantric from Bhutan in the 8th century. Witnessing Tsechu is said to bring merit, good luck, it is believed that wishes come true when you witness this festival. Prayers and rituals are done before the starting of the festival, which is said to invoke the deities. It is said to be one of the biggest festival in Thimpu when people come in their finest clothes and crowd over the courtyard of Tashichho Dzong, where a dancing stage is set where mask dances are performed. This is usually celebrated in the month of September, this year; the festival has fallen, in September 19-21.

Paro Tsechu
One of the most popular spring festivals where monks and laymen dress up in vibrant costumes, Paro Tsechu, is a festival to re-enact the history and legends of Buddhism. The ending moment of the festival is the viewing of the four storeys high, 350 years old thangka i.e. a religious Buddhist scroll, celebrating the good actions of Guru Rimpoche who is said to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The thangka is said to be so religious that with just the sight of it, people will get liberation. During this festival which falls in the month of March, is also a great time to explore the beauty of the spring time and hike around Bhutan’s countryside exploring some Rhododendron forests including a cvisit to Lamperi.

Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Jambay Lhakhang is considered to be one of the oldest temples in the Kingdom which was founded by Songsten Gyampo. The festival is celebrated to honor Guru Rinpoche and also the establishment of the temple of Jambay Lakhang. The people are dressed up in the traditional dresses and wear masks and perform naked in the middle of the night in the belief that by doing this the infertile women will be blessed with children. The first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra- Wheel of Time) inside the temple, to celebrate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of King of Bhutan built the Chorten Lakhang. The festival falls in October. It’s a good time to explore around Bhutan and also for hiking.

Punakha Drubchen
Punakha Drubchen takes you back to the 17th century war with the Tibetan army, as they re-enact the battle during the festival. Back in 17th century, when Zhabdrung Ngwang Namgyal defeated the Tibetan invaders, Bhutan was unified into a singular nation. As a markup of this day and to celebrate the unification, the festival is celebrated during the time of the year. The people masked and armored re enact the whole battle signifying to the festival and the victory of the Bhutanese over the Tibetans.

A tour during March would be worth for many tourists to visit Bhutan as the nature brings out the best in Bhutan. Punakha Tsechu was first introduced as an annual event where the Chief Abbot has his winter residence. In 2005, the locals put forward a request to the 70th Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Choedra, and the government that they wanted another similarly grand festival which would help in keeping tradition alive besides, of course, further commemorating the great deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.

Haa Summer Festival
Set in a stunning location in between the wilderness of the Himalayan landscape, the Haa summer festival gives the tourists and the visitors an in depth picture and view of the lives and the culture of the roving herders in the Haa valley. It’s a celebration of the Bhutanese traditions, culture, religion and sports. The tourists can participate in some of the It’s a happy and lively celebration of traditional Bhutanese culture, sports, and religion. Tourists can participate in some of the local sports such as yak riding, simply try the local cuisine, or dance to their ancient folk songs.

Haa valley is located close to the international airport of Paro. Haa valley is a great valley for hiking around the Himalayas. Walking through some old trails through mountain slopes covered in Primula pedicularis, Ranaculus, Asters and several varieties of ferns, you will get to lose yourself among the dense forests, poppies and streams with rainbow trout. During the summer festival, the best thing you will get to do is see the rare white poppy that grows from 1 to 1.5m in height and around 400 in meters. The white poppy is only found in Haa valley and cannot be traced anywhere else.

Monggar Tsechu
Monggar in Bhutan is also known as the fortress of the Zhongarps, after the memorable Dzongpons of Zhongar that played significant role in the history of Bhutan. The main inhabitants of this region speak Tshanglakha, and Kurtoepaikha and is known for its wood carvings. The new Dzong in Monggar was built at the initiative of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in 1953. Today the dzong is the centre of administration where all important decisions are taken. The most exciting local event is an annual three day event that is held every November. The event is witnessed by people from as far as Trashigang and Lhuentse.

Gomphu Kora Festival
Gomphu means meditation and Kora means circumambulation. The name is derived from a cave that is formed out of a rock face next to a temple that has been built as a tribute to this sacred site. The story of Gomphu Kora goes back to the 8th century, when an evil spirit named Myongkhapa, escaped from Samye in Tibet when Guru Padmasambhava, the progenitor of the Nyingma strand of Buddhism, was spreading the Dharma in the Himalayas.

The main attraction of Gomphu Kora, is the circumambulation which says go Gomphu Kora today as tomorrow will be late, that entices the devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. The place comes alive every month of March when the festival is being celebrated. Thepeople from the eastern part descend to the narrow valley and partake in the festivity, worship and re affirm their past. The three day festival even drives the Dakpa tribe from India.

Merak Tshechu
The valley of Merak is situated in eastern Bhutan, within the Trashigang Dzongkhang, which is considered to be a unique valley that is inhabited by semi nomadic people called Brokpas. At the height of 3000 meters this valley is untouched by the outside world. The people from the valley called as Brokpas, still have the old way of living through barter systems exchanging Yak products for food grains and other daily necessities with neighboring Tshanglas.

The attire worn by the people of this valley there are entirely made out of Yak wool and Sheep wool. The culture around this valley is also very unique as they are among the few communities to practice polyandry. The practice is common and the people are used to it. The annual festival that is held for three days is like a break for the Brokpas whose daily lives run from cattle herding.

Nomad Festival
The festival held in Bumthang Dzongkhag, is the festival when families from the region come together, dine together and dress in their traditional attires spun from Yak hair including the Brokpa black hat known very well in all over the world with five long fringes down the front or the conical layap bamboo headgear. If you chose to travel to this region around the time you will be gaining a closer glimpse into the proud communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and that form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Not only that but you can also dine on delicious traditional recipes while sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as families from this region have done for untold ages. If you are among the adventurous visitors, you will definitely want to try some yak riding as it is quite famous around the area. If you are a culture-enthusiast, you can simply let yourself soak 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. You will attain some inner peace as you visit some of the most exquisite Buddhist temples in Bhutan.

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