Septem­ber 19–21, 2018

Asian Geographic - - South Asia -

Tsechus, or fes­ti­vals, in Bhutan are held in honour of Guru Rin­poche, the man who in­tro­duced the coun­try to Bud­dhism in the 8th cen­tury. The fes­ti­val of Thimphu Tsechu is at­tended by thou­sands of Bhutanese, who travel overnight from neigh­bour­ing dis­tricts to the cap­i­tal. Early ver­sions of the fes­ti­val in­volved a se­ries of sacred dances by monks. Later, more dances, colour­ful masks, and elab­o­rate cos­tumes were added. These the­atri­cal dances, paired with drums and cym­bals, of­ten de­pict a theme, such as Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) or Guru Tshengye (The Eight Man­i­fes­ta­tions of Guru). These dances are held in the court­yard of the Tashichho dzong, a build­ing that houses the district govern­ment, the king’s throne room, and the reli­gious ad­min­is­tra­tion head­quar­ters.

The three-day fes­ti­val also fea­tures jesters, or at­saras, wear­ing red masks with huge noses and ma­ni­a­cal grins. Their dancing is be­lieved to en­trance evil forces and pro­tect the Bhutanese. Some­times, at­saras per­form skits about health and so­cial aware­ness.

Many Bhutanese see the fes­ti­val as a break from ru­ral life, and the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate, pray and gather fam­ily and friends. It is also be­lieved that watch­ing the performance will grant bless­ings on the au­di­ence. As a re­sult, the dzong is swollen with spec­ta­tors wear­ing their finest clothes, with some camp­ing overnight to se­cure a good spot. Other lo­ca­tions have since been con­structed for those who can­not fit into Tashichho, with eth­nic folk dances per­formed by the Royal Academy of Per­form­ing Arts.


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