Most of Bhutan’s festivals are religious ones or tsechus, but everyone enjoys a good party and the Bhutanese are no exception – these are lively social gatherings with everyone turned out in their finest clothes and plenty of merriment between the sacred dances as clowns (rather startlingly) with giant phalluses entertain the crowd.
Hardly a month goes by without there being a festival to celebrate in various dzongs and monasteries across Bhutan. Held in honour of Guru Rinpoche , the eighth-century master who arrived from Tibet on a flying tigress and introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, the festival celebrations dramatise Buddhist teachings.
In the early morning women in intricately woven kiras and men in red and gold striped ghos, (the respective traditional dress of Bhutan), make their way into the monastery courtyard to await the sound of horns that announce the dancing.
In yellow silk skirts or brocaded tunics and masks of stags and demons, monks and laymen leap and whirl across the floor depicting the triumph of good over evil and the power of compassion to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes as the audience sit spellbound. Attending a festival gains the onlooker religious merit and helps wash away many of their past sins. Which is a handy side-benefit.
The Paro and Thimphu tsechus are the largest in the festival calendar and draw the biggest crowds, but we highly recommend more intimate village festivals too. These, such as Ura in the Bumthang Valley, take more effort to reach but there’s always plenty to see on the journey and you’ll be rewarded with an extraordinary and truly authentic experience.
In Bhutan, even the ordinary is extraordinary, so simply being there and travelling through the country is a rich experience in itself. Festivals in Bhutan are the icing on the cake.
To find out how to plan your trip to Bhutan around a festival get in touch.
Posted by: Andrea Hulme