Festival Tours

Tsechus (Religious Festivals)

Festivals in Bhutan are different from those held in the western world. While these countries have food festivals, carnivals and others, in Bhutan festivals are grounded on religion. Known in the local lingo as “Tsechus”, the festivals are held all over the country on different dates.

Background

Festivals or Tshechu (“tenth day”) are held every year in various temples, monasteries and dzongs across Bhutan. It is mainly a religious event celebrated on the 19th day of the month of Lunar Calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, an 8th century Buddhist teacher.

Tshechu is not simply a festival conducted for entertainment; it is a series of sacred events choreographed to promote happiness yet with the intent to ultimately cultivate an enlightened mind in all attendees. The festival is a sacred event conducted by fully ordained monks and enlightened masters.

Dance and music play a very important part in the cultural life of the people. Each village and community has a rich tradition of dance, which marks the passing seasons, communal occasions and shared experiences. Just like the building of the dzongs (fortresses) and the setting up of the Chhoe-sid (dual system of government), the dances have had a similar part to play in helping to unite the people. Chhams or “Religious Mask Dances” are usually performed during Tshechus, mainly to convey religious messages to the people. Some were composed by Guru Rinpoche and others by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and other great saints. During the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are invoked and through their power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. All evil spirits are suppressed so that the doctrine of the Buddha flourish and bring joy and happiness to all sentient beings.

Tsechus (religious festivals) are an intrinsic part of Bhutan’s tradition and culture.

The origin can be traced back to the 8th century, wherein Guru Padma Sambhava and the Abbot Shanti Rakshita, introduced the dances and performed it when the first Buddhist temple was constructed at Samye in Tibet. It is said that through the performance of the dances, spirits living in the vicinity of the temple were subdued.

Tsechus became diverse and the number of Chhams (mask dances) increased as followers of Guru Rimpoche, especially treasure revealers (Tertons) and other enlightened masters, discovered instructions for such sacred dances, believed to be written by Guru Rimpoche and concealed in different places. Every dance has a meaning and is a story narrated as the dances progress. Most are associated with the subduing of evil forces and in essence, speaks of the triumph of the good over evil.

From the secular point of view, Tsechus have social significances as it brings communities together, partaking in merrymaking, adorned in their best attires. People forget their mundane farm lives and celebrate.

Moreover, there are local and national festivals, especially in religious districts like Bumthang. Local festive are held for deities of the particular localities.

While there are several Tsechus performed, we provide you an insight into some of the most popular ones. Your trips can be customised to include the Tsechus, along with other packages. Thus, we cannot provide a fixed itinerary. Based on the Tsechu you would like to visit, other interests and duration, we can weave itineraries that suit you.