Bhutan is famous for its people, languages, cuisines, dzongs, culture, and tradition. Aside from that, local festivals are an integral part of Bhutanese.
Amongst all the festivals, Tshechu is the most popular and significant religious festival in Bhutan. Tshechu literally means the ‘Tenth Day’ and it’s celebrated on the tenth day of various months according to the Bhutanese lunar calendar. Tshechu festivals are held to honour Guru Rinpoche, the Buddhist saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century.
Many of the cultural performances reenact historical events and victories to transmit certain values to the younger generation. Festivals are also avenues for Bhutanese to socialise, receive blessings and gain merits. Bhutanese believe that the mere act of attending a Tshechu will bring them great benefits. If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, experience vibrant festivals, witness mystical dances, listen to folk songs and gain merits, you should plan your trip according to the Tsechu festivals schedule in Bhutan. Be prepared to have a sensory overload experience.
Must-see Festivals in Bhutan
1. Thimphu Tshechu Festival
One of the biggest and most popular festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu Festival. It is also called the National Festival of Bhutan. The festival is held in the capital city, Thimphu for three days. However, prior to the actual Tshechu, monks conduct prayer for days and nights to invoke the gods. Some of the popular masked dances are Guru Tshengye (Eight Guru Rinpoche Manifestations), Shaw Schachi (Dance of Stags), and many more.
Thimphu Tshechu, like other Tshechu, celebrates Guru Rimpoche, the precious saint who has established Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayas. You’ll see monks performing sacred dances at the festival. The finale of the festival involves the unfolding of a huge religious scroll, thongdrol, a sacred scroll that depicts Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and other Buddhist deities. The locals believe that just by seeing the thongdrol at the festival, you can purify your sins and attain good fortune. To witness the richness of Thimphu Tshechu, you may opt for a 7 day Thimphu Tshechu tour.
Duration: 3 days
Venue: Tashichho Dzong
When: March or April
2. Paro Tshechu
Another popular festival in Bhutan is the Paro Tshechu. This festival in Bhutan dates back to 1644 which is after the construction of the Paro Dzong, also known as Rinpung Dzong. Similarly to Thimphu Tshechu, the festival is celebrated in honour of Guru Rinpoche.
All masked dances will be held on the first day within the dzong courtyard. In the following days, the festival takes place outside the courtyard of the dzong. Paro Tshechu is extremely popular and it draws a huge crowd from all over the country and beyond annually.
During the festival, see Bhutanese dress up in their best national dress.
To experience the vibrant Paro Tshechu, you may opt for the 7-day Paro Tshechu tour.
Duration: 5 days
Venue: Rinpung Dzong
3. Punakha Drubchen & Punakha Tshechu
Punakha Drubchen & Punakha Tshechu are also among the most popular festivals in Bhutan. The highlight of Punakha Drubchen is the reenactment of the scenes from the 17th century battle with the Tibetan army. The local military men dress up in traditional battle gear as a celebration of victory and in honour of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
To preserve Buddhist teaching in 2005, the Punakha Tshechu was introduced as a response to the request of the Punakha District Administration. The Punakha Tshechu is held after the Punakha Drubchen.
Punakha Tshechu is held at the majestic Punakha Dzong, deemed the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan. It was also the venue of the high profile Royal Wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
If you are planning to experience Punakha Drubchen and Punakha Tshechu, you may opt for a 7-day Punakha Tshechu tour.
Duration: 3 days
Venue: Punakha Dzong
4. Nimalung Festival
One of the vibrant festivals that you must see in Bhutan is the Nimalung Tshechu. It is a three-day festival that initially starts with vibrant and colourful masked dances. On the last day, people are blessed to see Guru Tshengye thongdrol in the morning.
During the final day, people get the opportunity to see the monks of Nimalung Dratshang performing Guru Tshengye cham and Drametse Nga Cham. Drametse Ngacham dance was inscribed in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008.
If you’ll like to experience Nimalung Tshechu, you may opt for a 10 Day Nimalung Tshechu tour.
Duration: 3 days
Venue: Nimalung Dratshang or the Nimalung Buddhist Monastery
When: June or July
5. Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Jambay Lhakhang Drup is one of the most interesting celebrations in Bhutan. In addition to masked dances, you can witness men jumping over fire and performing naked in the wee hours of the morning. The traditional dances are performed to celebrate the foundation of Jambay Lhakhang Monastery. During the fire blessing ceremony ‘Mewang’, devotees jump over flames to wash away their bad karma.
Tercham (The Naked Dance) is a unique dance performed by a group of men covering only their faces. It is said that the dance was performed to subdue the demons impeding the construction of the temple.
Although the dance attracts a lot of locals and tourists, photography of the dancers is strictly prohibited.
To experience Jambay Lhakhang Drup, you may opt for 10-days Jambay Lhakhang tour.
Duration: 5 days
Venue: Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor
When: October or November
Are you interested to discover more about Bhutan?
If you are interested in witnessing other Bhutanese festivals, you may check out Bhutan festival travel packages. You may also check the best time to visit Bhutan and tips when planning for a trip to Bhutan.
Don’t forget to sign-up for our regular newsletter at drukasia.com/subscribe. If you have any enquiries, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you may consider purchasing the most comprehensive travel guide to Bhutan on Amazon to prepare you for your journey to Bhutan.