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Festivals of Bhutan

The tsechu is a festival in honour of Padmasambhava –
“ One who was born from a lotus flower,” popularly known under the name of “ Guru Rinpoche,” the Precious Teacher. This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan etc. around 800 AD. He is the founder of Nyingmapa, the “old school” of Lamaism, which still has numerous followers. The biography of Guru Rinpoche is highlighted by 12 episodes on the model of the Buddha Sakyamuni life. “The Tsechu” which has become the name of a popular festival commemorates each episode around the year on the 10th day of the month. The dates and the duration of the festival vary from one district to another but they always take place on or around the 10th day of the month according to the Bhutanese calendar.
Bhutanese religious dances are called cham. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks, which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls, manifestation of Guru Rimpoche or just the simple human beings.
During Tsechus, the dances are performed by monks as well as by laymen. The Tsechu is a religious festival and attending it, it is believed one gains merits. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery. Following is the dance sequence for the Thimphu Tsechu. At other tsechus the sequence may vary.

Dance of the Four Stags (Shazam Cham)
This dance shows how Guru Rinpoche subdued the god of the Wind, who created much unhappiness in the world, and rode the stag that was the god’s mount. Dancers wear horned deer masks.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging (Pelage Gingsum)
This long dance is a visual representation of the heavenly paradise of Guru Rinpoche. It shows how emanations of Guru Rinpoche (ging) subdue demons that create obstacles to religion.

Dance of the Heroes (Pacham)
The purpose of this dance is to lead the believers of the human world into the presence of Guru Rinpoche.

Dance of the Stag & the Hounds (Shawa Shachi) Part 1
Represents the conversion to Buddhism of the hunter Gonpo Dorji by the saint Milarepa.
Dance with the Guitar (Dranyeo Cham).
A dance in celebration of the diffusion of the Drukpa lineage in Bhutan by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Black Hat Dance (Shana Cham)
One of the most important dances in which the dancers assume the appearance of yogis who have the power to kill and recreate life. It is believed that their gestures are transformed into mudras and their feet form a mandala. The dancers first create a mandala then cut the demons into pieces. This is also a ground purification rite performed for the construction of dzongs, temples and chorten.

Dance of the 21 Black Hats with Drums (Shaa Nga Cham)
Danced in honor of the victory of Buddhism over its enemies. The Black Hats beat the great drums of Buddhism; the sound of the drum represents the religion itself.
Kyecham
A dance of swords and animal masks.

Dance of the Noblemen & the Ladies (Pholey Molay)
More a comical, and very crude, play than a dance, it depicts events in the life of King Norzang.

Dance of the Drums from Drametse (Drametse Nga Cham)
Whilst meditating a learned lama had a vision of Guru Rinpoche and his paradise. In the vision the Guru’s attendants were transformed into 100 kinds of peaceful and wrathful deities. Each held a drum and drumstick and performed a dance.

Dance of the Stag & the Hounds (Shawo Sachi) Part 2
The most serious and religious of the dances in which Milarepa appears clad in white, sits in his traditional stance, with hand held to his right ear, and sings.

Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)
Dancers represent the protectors of Buddhism who live in the eight cremation grounds at the edges of Mount Meru.

Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Tungam)
A dramatic and deeply symbolic dance in which a sacrificial murder is performed.

Dance of the Rakshas & the Judgement of the Dead (Raksha Mangcham)
One of the most important dances of the tsechu, it is based on the Book of the Dead, and is watched carefully by many old people in preparation for their own death. It is also the longest of the performances, lasting over 2 hours.

Dance of Tamshing in Bumthang (Bumthang Ter Cham)
Depicts the vision of Pema Lingpa on the consecration of the Tamshing Goemba in Bumthang. When it is performed all the earth demons are appeased and the gods rejoice.

Dance of Ging & Tsholing (Ging dang Tsholing)
A dance initiated by Guru Rinpoche on the occasion of the consecration of Samye Monastery in Tibet. The ging and tsholing demonstrate their magical powers in order to discourage demons.

Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Tshengay)
A dance and a play in which the eight manifestations appear and are revered by the audience.

Religious Song (Chhoeshey)
Performed to commemorate the opening of the gateway to the pilgrimage site of Tsari in eastern Tibet.

Events

Public Holidays 2010

  • 2 Jan Winter Solstice
  • 18-19 Feb Losar
  • 20 Feb Traditional Day of Offering
  • 21 Feb Birth Anniversary of Fifth Druk Gyalpo
  • 26 Apr Zhabdrung Kuchoe
  • 2 May Birth Anniversary of Third Druk Gyalpo
  • 31 May Lord Buddha's Parinivana
  • 2 Jun Coronation Day of Fourth Druk Gyalpo
  • 25 Jun Birth Anniversary of Guru Rinpoche
  • 18 Jul First Sermon of Lord Buddha
  • 17 Sep Thimphu Drubchen
  • 21-23 Sep Thimphu Tshechu
  • 21 Oct Dashain
  • 1 Nov Descending Day of Lord Buddha
  • 11-13 Nov Birth Anniversary of Fourth Druk Gyalpo
  • 17 Dec National Day

 

TENTATIVE BHUTAN FESTIVAL DATES FOR 2011

The Bhutanese are deeply religious people followers of Mahayana Buddhism. Their beliefs are woven intricately seven into their daily lives - in the way they live, work, and workshop and celebrate. But the tsechu festivals is perhaps the most elaborate and colourful expression of their deep-seated faith in the ideals of dharma. The festival is also an opportunity for those visiting Bhutan to get a rare glimpse into the mystical and rich traditions of the Bhutanese people.

 

Adventure International Trekking Present “The tentative schedules of tsechu festivals in Bhutan for 2011”

 

 

SL

FESTIVAL

PLACE

DATES

1

PUNAKHA DRUBCHHEN

PUNAKHA

8th to 12th FEB

2

PUNAKHA TSHECHU

PUNAKHA

13th to 15th FEB

2

CHHORTEN KORA

TRASHIYANGTSHE

18th FEB & 4th MAR

3

GOMPHUKORA

TRASHIGANG

13th to 15th MARCH/ 11th to 13th APRIL

4

PARO TSHECHU

PARO

15th to 19th MARCH/ 14th to 18th APRIL

5

CHHUKHA TSHECHU

CHHUKHA

17th to 19th MARCH/ 16th to 18th APRIL

6

URA TSHECHU

BUMTHANG

13th to 17th MAY

7

NIMALUNG TSHECHU

BUMTHANG

8th to 10th JUL

8

KURJEY TSHECHU

BUMTHANG

10th JUL

9

THIMPHUDRUBCHEN

THIMPHU

1st to 5th OCT

10

WANGDUE TSHECHU

WANGDUEPHODRANG

4th to 6th OCT

11

TAMSHING PHALA CHHOEPA

BUMTHANG

5th to 7th OCT

12

THIMPHUTSHECHU

THIMPHU

6th to 8th OCT

13

THANGBI MANI

BUMTHANG

10th to 12th OCT

14

JAMBAY LHAKHANG DRUB

BUMTHANG

10th to 14th NOV

15

PRAKHAR TSHECHU

BUMTHANG

11th to 13th NOV

16

MONGAR TSHECHU

MONGAR

1st to 4th DEC

17

PEMAGATSHEL TSHECHU

PEMAGATSHEL

1st to 4th DEC

18

TRASHINGANG TSHECHU

TRSASHIGANG

2nd to 5th DEC

19

NALAKHAR TSHECHU

BUMTHANG

10th to 12th DEC

20

TRONGSA TSHECHU

TRONGSA

2nd to 4th JAN, 2012

21

LHUENTSE TSHECHU

LHUENTSE

2nd to 4th JAN, 2012