Bhutan: Major Festivals

Culture and Traditions:

Welcome to Bhutan- the Land of the Thunder Dragon – one of the most sought after travel destinations today. The thunder dragon is a trekker’s paradise and an environmentalist’s dream. With 72 percent of the country under forest cover, Bhutan’s pristine ecology is home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.

This spiritual land is the last bastion of the Vajrayana school of Mahayana Buddhism which provides the essence of a unique identity for the 700,000 people. Bhutan is a unique blend of the old and new. Here is a country that is slowly opening up to the modern world in a fine balance with its ancient traditions. Those fortunate enough to visit Bhutan describe it as a unique, deeply spiritual and mystical experience. This kingdom is an adventure like no other.


The Buddhist festivals or Tsechus are one of the prime examples of the living culture of Bhutan that many have come to admire and to treasure. The Tsechu is a festival in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and the Himalayan world.These Tsechus are held in almost every district attracting hundreds of Bhutanese people in a spirit of festivity, celebration and deep faith. The Tsechus have spiritual connotations, and Buddhist practitioners perceive a symbolic communion between dancers and spectators. Those attuned to the faith can feel the spiritual powers evoked by the dancers dressed in elaborate, often ancient, costumes, masks and headgear. Apart from monk dancers, community folk dancers and singers also perform during the Tsechus. The Bhutanese people consider it a blessing to be able to watch the dances.

Tsechus are held on auspicious days, on the tenth day of the Bhutanese month, and last up to four days in which a series of highly stylised masked dance rituals are performed. The dances are well known and loved by the Bhutanese who come dressed in their best for the very special social occasion for all Bhutanese families.

Throngdoel: Some of these festivals unfurl a giant thangkha known as a throngdel that is usually a silk appliqué and embroidery of a Buddhist saint. The word throngdel means “liberation on sight” and people form long queues to receive blessings by touching their heads against the bottom of the thangkha.

Religious song (Chhoeshay): This commemorates the opening of the gateway to the pilgrimage site of Tsari in eastern Tibet by the founder of the Drukpa School of Buddhism, Tsangpa Jarey.

Regional Tsechus: Tsechus take place throughout the country in every district at different times of the year. The smaller Tsechus are often more interesting as visitors get a close and better perspective of a local festival.

The Department of Tourism maintains a list of Tsechus.


Folk festivals:

Apart from the main Tsechus in every district, folk festivals exist on a smaller community scale that provides a fascinating insight into local beliefs. Some of these festivals are inspired by the pre-Buddhist tradition – the Bon practice.

Ache Lhamo Dances, Bumthang: This folk festival takes place on the eighth day of the seventh month of the Bhutanese calendar. The girls in Ura village trek up to the mountain to make their offerings and dance all day. In the evening, they return to the Ura temple, bringing flower offerings. More dances are performed called the Ache Lhamo dances, specific only to Ura in Bumthang.

Hungla dances, Trashi Yangtse: This ancient festival is celebrated on the 28th of the sixth Bhutanese month among the communities of Bhainakha, Kenmong, Changmadung and Tokaphu in Trashi Yangtse district. Villagers from two rival teams use home made tinder to have firefights at night. The next day, Buddhist scriptures are carried around the villages to bring blessings to people. Religions ceremonies continue on the 30th of the month.

Bon festival, Ha: A pre-Buddhist practice, the Bon festival is celebrated among the communities of Zongma, Gorsumeth and Ungar in Ha district. The festival takes place on the 10th day of the sixth Bhutanese month.

Bon festival, Trashi Yangtse: Another Bon festival takes place annually on the 15th-18th day of the ninth Bhutanese month. Villagers in the communities of Changmadung, Pang and Memung, share a communal meal and perform a Bon dance together..

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