The Kingdom of Bhutan located on the eastern edge of the Great Himalayan range is also known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” This carbon neutral nation is also known as one of the happiest countries on earth.
Here are ten beautiful festivals that will give further insight into the fantastic Bhutanese culture.
It means the 10th day of the month on the Bhutanese calendar. These festivals take place in different cities and the festival months differ according to each city, town or a village. Guru Padma Shambhava or Guru Rimpoche, the great sage and scholar, visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th and 9th centuries. He converted the opponents of Buddhism by reciting mantras, performing rites and a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods. These festivals commemorate the anniversary of his arrival in Bhutan.
1. Paro Tsechue
It is the most popular of festivals in Bhutan. Trained monks and laymen wearing colorful costumes and masks perform dances. Witnessing Tsechues is one of the best ways to experience the ancient loving culture of Bhutan. The highlight of this festival is the unfurling of a giant Thangka (traditional Tibetan Buddhist painting) that covers the face of the entire monastery. The Thangka a religious scroll is displayed for the public to see. The Bhutanese believe that they are blessed with eternal peace just by looking at the Thangka.
2. Thimpu Tsechue
Tenzing Rabgye established the Thimpu Tsechue in 1670. It is an excellent opportunity to witness the locals gathered to celebrate the festival in their most elegant traditional Gho and Kira (dresses) in the nation’s capital. You can observe the elaborate sacred dances in colorful costumes with the locals. The Tsechue in Thimpu is one of the most popular ones. However, if you want to witness a less crowded festival, Punakha’s celebrations are the ones to observe.
3. Punakha Tsechue and Drubchen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhabdrung_Rinpoche)
A Drubchen is another type of celebration of Bhutan. Punakha, located in West Bhutan is winter home of the Chief Abbot of Bhutan, locally known as the Je Khenpo. After several invasions by Tibetan forces in the 17th century to seize a religious relic, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese victory. Punakha Drubchen was introduced to commemorate the triumph over the Tibetans, which has continued annually ever since. To maintain the Bhutanese traditions, the locals requested the Government to start a Tsechue as well in 2005. Both these festivals are celebrated with enthusiasm.
4. Jambay Lhakhang
The oldest temple in the Kingdom is the Jambay Lhakhang. Founded in the 7th century by Songtsen Gonpo, a Tibetan King. Legend has it that a she-demon was obstructing the spread of Buddhism which compelled the King to build 108 temples on her body that spread across Tibet, Bhutan and their borders. Jambay Lhakhang is one of the 108 temples. The festival here is unique with a fire ritual held in the evening, and the crowds gather to witness the naked dance known as Tercham.
5. Jhomolhari Mountain Festival.
This festival is a celebration of the community’s culture that lives together in harmony with nature. The elusive snow leopard is a symbolic animal as it thrives in this area. Snow leopard themed school children perform songs and dances during this festival.
6. Black-necked crane festival
This annual festival is organized to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered Black-necked Cranes. This festival is celebrated with cultural programs such as folk songs and dances: some of which are black-necked crane themes. The locals perform mask dances while the school children perform crane and environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs. This festival is celebrated at the courtyard of Gangtey Gompa in Phobjikha valley.
7. Haa Summer Festival
Haa Valley is set amongst pristine lakes, and alpine forest and its lively and uplifting festival is in celebration of tradition, living culture, nomadic lifestyle, traditional sports, unique local cuisine and religious performances. The Haa valley with its wild forests and rugged hills is an excellent location to enjoy some of the best hiking in Bhutan. You can have a cultural immersion by participating in local sports, sampling local food and listening to traditional songs. It is located close to the Paro international airport.
8. Nomad festival
Several nomadic communities at the northern frontier add vibrant color, traditions, and culture to the nation. Nomadic tribes from Bumthang, Thimpu, Wanduephodrang, Trashigang, and Paro participate in this festival. They dress in traditional costumes include clothing made from yak wool and “Brokpa” headgear that is conical. The women wear colorful hand woven aprons decorated and themed with flowers and animals. Colorful ribbons adorn the women folk plaited hair.
9. Kurjay Tsechue
The festival takes place at the temple of Kurjey, which is in the Chokor valley of Bumthang district. Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche was invited to ward off the evil spirits. There are imprints of Guru Rimpoche that were left behind after he subdued the demons. The Kurjey festival unites all Bhutanese and foreigners alike who gather to witness the ancient mask dances while basking in the natural beauty of Bhutan.
10. Pema Gatshel Tshechue
Pema Gatshel is a town in East Bhutan. Their festival is celebrated over a period of 3 days. When the local dancers perform the traditional mask dances, it is believed that the spectators are blessed. It is an annual social gathering to celebrate and contemplate religion.
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