Religious festivals, known as tsechus, are an intrinsic part of Bhutanese cultural life and are observed throughout the year across the kingdom. The most popular are Punakha festival which takes place each year in February or March, Paro festival which falls in March or April, Ura festival in April or May, Thimphu festival in September or October and Jambay Lhakhang festival (also known as Bumthang Drup) which is in October or November each year. For more information have a look at our sample festival tours.
For an account of a visit to a local festival, by kind permission of the author read Solange Hando’s article “Tangbi Mani“, which first appeared in the Druk Air magazine “Tashi Delek” – text and photos copyright Solange Hando, all rights reserved
Dedicated to Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and other protective deities (such as Yeshe Gompo or Palden Lhamo), religious festivals symbolise friendship, peace, reverence and compassion. The Tsechu festivals showcase the kingdom’s best religious dances dating from the Middle Ages, performed only once or twice a year by monks and laymen. They usually culminate in the unfurling of an especially large, fine thongdrel – a giant appliquéd thangkha (religious painting on cloth), hung from a wall of the dzong’s courtyard to bless the spectators. People from all walks of life assemble in their finery to watch masked dances and rituals, to socialise and to rejoice. While the underlying purpose of the festival is spiritual, dances are more often like plays, telling stories where good triumphs over evil, or depicting significant historical events, especially surrounding the life of the Guru Rinpoche. The occasion provides an opportunity for people to relax and forget the daily routine, and to dress in their finest clothes and jewellery, but it is also an occasion for prayer and blessings.