Bhutan Festivals

The Tshechu is a festival in honor of Padmasambhava. “One who was born from lotus flower” popularly known under the name of “Guru Rimpoche”, “the precious Teacher”. This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan around 800 A.D. He is the founder of the Nyingmapa, the “old school” of Lamaism which still has numerous followers. The biography of Guru Rimpoche is highlighted in 12 episodes on the model of the Buddha Sakyamuni‘s life. Each episode is commemorated substitute throughout the year on the 10th day of the month “the Tshechu” which has become the name of a very popular festival. The dates and duration of the festivals vary from one district to another but the always take place on or around the 10th day of the month in the Bhutanese calendar.

During Tshechu, the dances are performed by monks as well by laymen. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains. It is also a yearly social gathering where people come to rejoice together dressed in all their finery.

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, 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.

During the Tsechu, Atsaras are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are an indispensable element to the religious festival. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics when 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.

Tshechus are thrilling, colorful and uplifting. They offer visitors a saturated glimpse into a unique way of life. If you can, be sure to include a Tshechu in your itinerary.