Here are some highlights of the Bhutan Festival:
Bhutan festival and Bhutanese culture have always included Tshechus. It draws many tourists and locals. Few know how and why these festivals began. Here’s Tshechu’s origin story.
Padmasambhava, from the Nyingmapa school, visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th and 9th centuries. He converted opponents of the Dharma by reciting mantras, performing rites, and dancing to subdue local spirits.
In addition, his visit to Bhutan was to aid Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava’s dances in Bumthang healed the king. Bhutan’s king helped him spread Buddhism. Padmasambhava organized the first Tshechu in Bumthang to showcase the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form). Chams depicted the glory of Buddhism and were composed to spread Buddha’s messages. Guru Rinpoche composed some Chams, while Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung, and other saints created others.
During mask dances, tantric deities are involved to remove misfortunes. The dances are believed to suppress evil spirits and demons that prevent Chhoe’s spread.
Thimphu Drubchen & Tshechu
In September, the 11-day Lhamoi Drubchen is held. This is a ritual that is done to appease Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali), the god of protection. Pelden Lhamo is the only female Dharma protector common to all four Buddhist schools. So, he’s one of Bhutan’s three protectors.
The Thimphu Tshechu was started in 1670, but the Drubchen was started between 1705 and 1709 by Kuenga Gyaltshen. It is believed that Kuenga Gyaltshen was the first reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, who was the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. A story says that while he was meditating, Pelden Lhamo danced in front of him. Based on the dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen started the Drubchen.
Bhutan Festival is the most well-known festival in Bhutan, and it is also the place where the world’s largest Thangka is shown. Guru Rinpoche is honored with mask dances. Locals go because they want to.
To start the festival, monks in Paro Rinpung Dzong do the Shingje Yab Yum dance. After Durdag, Shanag and Drametse Ngacham dance the dance of the lords of the cremation grounds.
Punakha Drubchen & Tshechu
Zhabdrung made Punakha Drubchen celebrate the victories of the Tibetan people. During the event, Pazaps or members of the local militia dress up in battle gear and act out a battle from the past. Tibetan soldiers were kicked out of Bhutan by people from the eight Tshogchens in Thimphu and the Punakha valley. Punakha Tshechu began with the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra.
The Thongdrel is an important part of the festival. The appliqué on 6,000 meters of silk brocade took 51 skilled workers two years to make. It was 83 feet long and 93 feet wide. The 11 incarnations of Zhabdrung are shown on the top of the Thongdrel. The bottom half shows the spiritual leaders of Bhutan, such as Je Khenpo.
Winter is Trashigang Tshechu season. Merak and Sakten nomads’ unusual outfits draw tourists to this celebration. The Kholong Tshechu in Trashigang, which begins in Yonphu at the end of November, also draws a large crowd due to its name. Kholong means “battle” in Sharchopkha. “The warring Tshechu” is an exact translation.
Chorten Kora & Namgang Kora
People from eastern Bhutan and India come to these Chorten circumambulations through the Dakpas (from Tawang District, Arunachal Pradesh, India) and the Drukpas (from Bhutan). They take place in the first lunar month.
When the stupa was built, a religious Arunachal Pradesh Dakini princess buried herself as the Yeshe Semba to meditate for all beings. Every year, a festival called Namgang Kora is held at the Chorten Kora in Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag. Devotees from Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India, join their counterparts from Bhutan.
Trongsa Tshechu is the oldest Tshechu in Bhutan. It is held in the huge Trongsa Dzong. People think that
Tshechus started to spread across Bhutan from Trongsa.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
This event honors Guru Rinpoche, who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan, and the 7th-century Jambey Lhakhang (temple).
The Mewang fire ceremony and Tercham religious dance highlight this important holiday in Bhutan. The fire dance blesses infertile ladies so they can have children.
A Dranang scholar in Tibet named Lam Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam started the Domkhar festival in the Chumey valley of Bumthang in the 1600s. He helped Dzongpo Chenpo get more important and built eight monasteries. Therefore, each April, the Domkhar temple has a party to honor him.
This festival, which takes place in Jakar Dzong, is not very old. However, this Bhutan festival is celebrated in mid-October. That is the ninth month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar, and also it lasts for five days.