Upcoming Bhutan Festivals Where Dzongs Come to Life With Color, Music & Dancing

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Festivals in Bhutan are vibrant, colorful, joyful and raucous with the most popular held in Thimphu & Paro. There are other regional Dromchoes and Tshechu’s around the year, taking place in different localities of the kingdom, which are equally fascinating.  The Tshechu at Bumthang is well known for taking place almost entirely during the evening and containing exciting fire dances.

Dzongs come to life with color, music and dancing as valley dwellers and town folk dress in their finest clothes and join together to exorcise evil spirits and rejoice in a new harvest. Rare masked and sword dances and other rituals are performed in the Dzong courtyard and temples. Tourists are allowed into the Dzongs to watch the spectacle, but not the inner sanctuaries.

Photography should always be discreet. It is generally allowed to take photographs at Tshechu’s but not at Dromchoe’s.

Most of the dances date back from beyond the Middle Ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elders dressed in bright costumes. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqués or Throngdrels. The moment of the unveiling is shrouded in secrecy and creates great excitement for attendees.

While there are festivals all year long, the upcoming ones starting in May extending through the summer are listed in the below chart. Below that are additional festivals you can learn about that take place in other regions with brief descriptions of each. The above photo is of the Nimalung Yshechu in Chummi, Bumthang.

May 11th to 13th, 2013Rhododendron FestivalBotanic Garden, Dochu La
Jun 17th to 19th, 2013Nimalung YshechuChummi, Bumthang
Jun 18th, 2013Kurjey TshechuChoekhor, Bumthang
Jul 6th to 8th, 2013Haa Summer FestivalHaa Valley
Aug 17th to 19th, 2013Masutaki Mushroom FestivalUra, Bumthang

 

PUNAKHA DROMCHOE (Punakha)

Punakha Dromchoe is a five day long festival dedicated to the goddess Mahakala. The religious aspects are performed in the same manner as in early times. On the last day, a play of warriors going off to war is enacted.

TAMSHINGPHALA CHOEPA (Bumthang)

The festival is celebrated for three days, on the open grounds in front of the Tamshing lhakang. This festival is in honour of the “Terton” (treasure discoverer) Pema Lingpa of the 15th century. The religious dances are generally the same, but performed in a slightly different manner, as of the Nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism.

JAMBAY LHAKANG DRUP (Bumthang)

This festival was introduced to celebrate the completion of the lhakang in the 7th century. The dances are performed by laymen from the villages in the valley. The high light of this festival is the ‘Mewang” – the fire ceremony.

TRONGSA TSHECHU (Trongsa)

The festival is celebrated within the courtyards of the Trongsa Dzong. It usually begins on the day after the Meeting of the Nine Evils, of the Bhutanese calendar. Falling in November or December of the international calendar. The festivities carry on for five days. The first day religious dances are “chamju” – dances without masks. On the following days, similar dances as of the Thimphu and Paro Tshechu’s are performed. A thongdrol is unfurled on the last day.

Photo credit: Tertontravelbhutan.

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