Festival Schedules 2024 & 2025

Thimphu Tsechu Festival
Thimphu Tsechu Festival
Dochula_festival_war_dance
Dochula_festival_war_dance

Tshechus – A History

Tsechus have always been an integral aspect of Bhutanese culture. It attracts tourists and locals alike in the hordes. Yet not many understand how these festivals originated and what they signify. So, we hereby present you with a brief history of the Tshechu, along with how and where it all began.

The great scholar Padmasambhava of the school of Nyingmapa (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th and 9th century. As bon practices and animist rituals were rampant then, he converted opponents of the Dharma by reciting mantras, performing rites and dancing to subjugate local spirits.

His visit to Bhutan had been to aid the dying king Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava performed a series of dances in the Bumthang valley which miraculously restored the king’s health. The king in return helped him spread Buddhism in Bhutan. So, Padmasambhava organized the first tshechu in Bumthang where the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form) were presented through eight forms of dances. These dances or Chams depicted the glory of Buddhism and were composed mainly to convey messages of the Buddha to the people. While some of the Chams were composed by Guru Rinpoche, others were created by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung 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.  The dances are believed to suppress all evil spirits and demons that prevent the spread of Chhoe – the doctrine.

Thimphu Drubchen & Tshechu

The eleven-day annual Lhamoi Drubchen – a rite performed to appease the protecting deity Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali) – is held in September. Pelden Lhamo whose name translates into Glorious Goddess is the only female Dharma protector common to all four schools of Buddhism. She is one of the three main protecting deities of Bhutan.

Although the Thimphu Tshechu was introduced in 1670, the Drubchen was instituted sometime between 1705 and 1709 by Kuenga Gyaltshen, the first reincarnation of Jampel Dorji – the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. According to legend, Pelden Lhamo appeared before him while he was meditating and performed dances. And based on the dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Drubchen.

Paro Tshechu

Paro Tshechu is the most popular pageantry in Bhutan with the unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka or Thongdrel ceremony. The mask dances commemorate the deeds of the great saint Guru Rinpoche. The locals attend the colorful festival to gain merit.

The event inside Paro Rinpung Dzong commences with monks performing the Shingje Yab Yum – the dance of the lord of death (Shingje) and his consort. It is followed by Durdag – the dance of the lords of the cremation grounds, after which, the dance of the black hats, Shanag, and the dance of the drums from Drametse (Drametse Ngacham) are performed.

Punakha Drubchen & Tshechu

The Punakha Drubchen was introduced by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans. During the festival, the Pazaps or local militia men dress in battle gear and showcase a battle scene from the distant past. In the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens of Thimphu and Punakha valley came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces from Bhutan. As for the Punakha Tshechu, it was started by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra.

The Thongdrel unveiled during the festival is of great significance. Measuring 83ft by 93ft, it is composed entirely of appliqué on 6,000 meters of silk brocade that took 51 artists two years to complete. The top half of the Thongdrel is devoted to the 11 manifestations of Zhabdrung’s lineage. The bottom half depicts Bhutan’s spiritual leaders including the current Je Khenpo.

Trashigang Tshechu

The Trashigang Tshechu takes place in the winter months. What attracts tourist to this festival is the nomadic people from Merak and Sakten with their unique costumes and attires. The Kholong Tshechu in Trashigang, which begins in Yonphu towards the end of November, also draws a huge crowd not only because it is the oldest Tshechu in Eastern Bhutan but because of its name. Kholong – translated in Sharchopkha means a fight. So, a precise interpretation would be ‘the fighting tshechu’.

Chorten Kora & Namgang Kora

These circumambulations of the Chortens by the Dakpas (people of Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh in India) and Drukpas (Bhutanese) are held in the first lunar month and are attended by people from all over the eastern region in Bhutan and from India.

A popular belief is that when the stupa was constructed, a pious dakini princess from Arunachal Pradesh entombed herself within, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings. Hence, devotees from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, India, joined the Bhutanese counterparts in the Namgang Kora – one of eastern Bhutan’s oldest festivals which is held annually at the Chorten Kora in Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag.

Trongsa Tshechu

Trongsa Tshechu, the oldest festival in Bhutan, is held annually inside the vast Trongsa Dzong. It is believed that the Tshechus began to spread in Bhutan from Trongsa. During the three-day festival, locals and monks perform mask dances, and traditional folk songs and dances are showcased as offerings to Guru Padmasambhava and local deities.

Festivals in Bumthang

Jambay Lhakhang Drup

This festival is held for dual reasons; to commemorate the establishment of the Jambey Lhakhang (temple) in the 7th century and to honor Guru Rinpoche who introduced tantric Buddhism in Bhutan.
This festival is one of the most important in Bhutan and the highlight is the Mewang – the fire ceremony – and the Tercham – a religious dance. The fire dance is supposed to bless infertile women so that they may bear children.

Domkhar Festival

The Domkhar festival in Chumey valley in Bumthang was initiated by a preeminent scholar of Dranang in Tibet, Lam Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam, in the 16th century. He promoted the special teaching of Dzongpo Chenpo (great perfection) and founded eight monasteries throughout the country. The festival held every year in April at the Domkhar temple is in his honor.

Jakar Festival

This festival is held within the walls of Jakar Dzong to honor the Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) who brought Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan during 8th century. The festival lasts for three days in mid-October during the ninth month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar.

Bhutan Festival Schedules for 2023 & 2024

Sl.No Festival Place 2024 2025
1 Punakha Drubchen Punakha Dzong, Punakha   16th-18th February
2 Punakha Tsechu Punakha Dzong, Punakha   19th-21st February
3 Tharpaling Thongdrol Tharpaling Lhakhang, Chummi, Bumthang   24th February
5 Gomphu Kora Gom Kora Lhakhang, Trashigang   17th-19th March
6 Talo Tsechu Talo Gonpa, Punakha   17th-19th March
7 Gasa Tsechu Gasa Dzong, Gasa   17th-19th March
8 Zhemgang Tshechu Zhemgang   17th-19th March
9 Paro Tsechu Rinpung Dzong, Paro   21st-25th March
10 Chorten Kora Chorten Kora Lhakhang, Trashiyangtshe   25th March – 08th April
11 Domkhar Tsechu Domkhar, Chummi, Bumthang   18th-20th April
12 Ura Yakchoe Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang   20th-24th April
13 Nimalung Tsechu Nimalung Dratshang, Chummi, Bumthang 14th-16th June 14th-16th June
14 Kurjey Tsechu Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 16th June 16th June
15 Masutaki Mushroom Festival Ura, Bumthang 23rd-24th August 23rd-24th August
16 Tour of the Dragon (Bicycle Race) Bumthang to Thimphu 05th September 05th September
17 Thimphu Drubchen Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu 08th September 08th September
18 Wangdue Tsechu Tencholing Army Ground, Wangduephodrang 11th-13th September 11th-13th September
19 Thimphu Tsechu Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu 12th-14th September 12th-14th September
20 Tamshing Phala Chhoepa Tamshing Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 13th-15th September 13th-15th September
21 Gangtey Tsechu Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang 16th-18th September 16th-18th September
22 Thangbi Mani Tangbi Lhakhang, Choekor, Bumthang 17th-19th September 17th-19th September
23 Chhukha Tsechu Chhukha Dzong, Chhukha 10th-12th October 10th-12th October
24 Jakar Tsechu Jakar Dzong, Choekhor, Bumthang 10th-12th October 10th-12th October
25 Jambay Lhakhang Drup Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 17th-21st October 17th-21st October
26 Prakar Duchhoed Prakar Lhakhang, Chummi, Bumthang 18th-20th October 18th-20th October
27 Black Necked Crane Festival Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang 11th November 11th November
28 Mongar Tsechu Mongar Dzong, Mongar 09th-11th November 09th-11th November
29 Trashigang Tsechu Trashigang Dzong, Trashigang 09th-11th November 09th-11th November
30 Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 15th November 15th November
31 Nalakhar Tsechu Ngaa Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang 15th-17th November 15th-17th November
32 Trongsa Tsechu Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa 08th-10th December 08th-10th December
33 Lhuentse Tsechu Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuentse 08th-10th December 08th-10th December
34 Druk Wangyel Tsechu Dochula, Thimphu 13th December 13th December