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The Festivals of Bhutan

Have you ever seen monks performing sacred Cham dances alongside cymbals smashing whilst horns are blowing? From folklore performances to naughty clowns – locals flock from the surrounding villages dressed in their best clothes to receive blessings and watch the festivals. Bhutan’s festivals are known as tshechus. These are Buddhist festivals in honour of the Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava, popularly known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’, the saint who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan.

Here are a handful of festivals celebrated in Bhutan which make for an incredible experience when visiting this beautiful and intriguing country:

Bhutanese festival dates do have a habit of changing so we keep our eye closely on the calendar.  If we are building a festival into your itinerary we we work on the most up to date information there is (and assume nothing)

Trashigang Tshechu - 17th to 19th November 2018 - 5th to 7th December 2019

This festival takes place in the courtyard of Trashigang Dzong which is perched on a cliff overlooking two rivers. Pilgrims gather around the edge and monks look out from balconies on the first and second floors. The view of the Trashigang from these balconies is magnificent. As the monks perform their dances their swirling robes appear as spinning tops on the stone paved floor. Pilgrims travel from as far as the Indian border and Brokpas (a semi-nomadic community) make the journey from Merak and Sakteng.

Mongar Tshechu - 15th to 18th November 2018 - 4th to 6th December 2019

The region of Mongar in eastern Bhutan is famous for its exquisite wood carvings and is known as the ‘Bastion of the Zhongarps’. The exciting and colourful three day tshechu is held here annually in November and is witnessed by people from as far as Trashigang and Lhuentse. The festival offers numerous mask dances and is one of the most important events the area has to offer.

Druk Wangyel Tshechu (Dochu Laa) (Featured in Highlights of Nepal and Bhutan 2018) - 13th December 2018 - 13th December 2019

The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.

Gomphukora Tshechu - 24th to 26th March 2018 - 14th to 16th March 2019

Gomphukora is one of the temples where Guru Rinpoche, the great tantric mystic, meditated. It is a small temple in front of a huge black rock, where he is said to have vanquished a local demon in the shape of a snake. Each spring, people from all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in all their finery, to partake in the festivities, worship and to reunite themselves with their past. Traditionally, this festival was an occasion for the people of eastern Bhutan, to choose their spouse.

Paro Tshechu - 27th to 31st May 2018 - 17th to 21st March 2019

The five-day Paro Tsechu is held each spring, from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar – usually late March or April – at the Paro Dzong (Rinchen Pung Dzong). This Tsechu is one of the largest festivals in Bhutan with pilgrims travelling from neighbouring districts to participate in the festivities. The first day of the festival is usually held in the courtyard of the Dzong and includes dances such as the ‘Black Hat Dance’ or ‘Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort’. On the final day, a giant appliqué thangka or Thondrol, is unrolled and displayed before dawn.

You can see a few of our favourite images and videos here.

Some of the other festivals, which are perhaps not as widely celebrated, are as follows:

 

Festival 2018 (2019) Where

Punakha Drubchhen

21 - 24 Feb         

(11-13 Feb)

Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Punakha Tsechu

(14-17 Feb)

Punakha Dzong, Punakha

Tharpaling Thongdrol

2 March              

(19 Feb)

Tharpaling Lhakhang, Bumthang

Talo Tshechu

24 - 26 March    

(14 - 16 March)

Talo Gonpa, Punhakha

Gasa Tshechu

24 - 26 March    

(14 - 16 March)

Gasa Dzong, Paro

Zhemgang Tshechu

24 - 27 March    

(14 -17 March)

Zhemgang Dzong, Zhemgang

Chorten Kora

31 Mar & 16 Apr

(21 Mar & 5 Apr)

Chorten Kora, Trashi Yangtse

Rhododendron Festival

20 - 22 April       

(19 - 21 April)

Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochu La

Domkhar Tshechu

25 to 27 April   

 (14 - 16 April)

Domkhar, Chumni, Bumthang

Ura Yakchoe

26 to 29 April     

(16 - 20 April)

Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang

Nimalung Tshechu

21 - 23 June       

(10 - 11 July)

Nimalung Dratshang, Bumthang

Kurjey Tshechu

23 June             

(11 July)

Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

Haa Summer Festival

14 - 15 July        

(13 - 14 July)

Haa

Mushroom Festival

15 - 16 August

(15 - 16 August)

Genekha, Thimphu

Masutaki Mushroom Festival

23 - 24 August    

(23 - 24 August)

Ura, Bumthang

Thimphu Drubchen

15 September      

(3 October)

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu

Wangdue Tshechu

17 - 19 September 

(5 - 7 October)

Wangdi Dzong, Wangdue Phrodrang

Tamshing Phala Chhoepa

19 - 21 September 

(7 - 9 October)

Tamshing Lhakhang, Bumthang

Thimphu Tshechu

19 - 21 September 

(7 - 9 October)

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu

Gangtey Tshechu

23 - 24 September 

(10 - 13 October)

Gangtey Goenpa, Phobjikha

Thangbi Mani

23 - 25 September  

(10 - 13 October)

Tangbi Lhakhang, Bumthang

Jhomolhari Mountain Festival

4 - 5 October    

(14 - 15 October)

Dangochong, Thimphu

Chhukha Tshechu

17 - 19 October 

(6 - 8 November)

Chhukha Dzong, Chhukha

Jakar Tshechu

17 - 20 October    

(5 - 9 November)

Jakar Dzong, Bumthang

Jambay Lhakhang Drup

24 - 27 October     

(13 - 16 November)

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang

Prakhar Duchhoed

25 - 27 October   

(14 - 16 November)

Prakar Khakhang, Bumthang

Dechenphu Tshechu

30th October        

(8th November)

Dechenphu Lhakang, Thimphu

Black Necked Crane Festival

11th November    

(11th November)

Gangtey Goenpa, Phobjikha, Wangdue Phodrang

Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham

23rd November        

(12th December)

Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang

Pemagatshel Tshechu

23 - 24 November    

(11 - 13 November)

Pemagatsel Dzong, Pemagatsel

Nalakhar Tshechu

23 - 25 November   

(12 - 14 December)

Ngaa Lhakhang, Bumthang

Trongsa Tshechu

15 - 17 December    

(4 - 7 Jan 2020)

Tongsa Dzong, Trongsa

Lhuentse Tshechu

8 - 10 December     

(4 - 7 Jan 2020)

Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuentse

Nabji Lhakhang Drup

22 - 24 December   

(10 - 12 Jan 2020)

Nabji Lhakhang, Trongsa

 

"Paro Festival personal highlight : Moonlit unfurling of Thankha, butter lamps, leaping dancers, chanting monks & King & Queen sitting behind us 3 rows back!"

Suzana Radovic
Kath

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Whether it's to ask a quick question or to start planning the journey of a lifetime, we'd love to hear from you.

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