Bhutan FESTIVAL MUST-SEE: THIMPHU TSECHU EXPERIENCE T H IMPHU TSECHU
September 19–21, 2018
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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