Trashigang Tsechu starts off with 244-year-old cham
The four-day Trashigang Tsechu, which began yesterday drew a crowd hundreds from 15 gewogs across the dzongkhag as well as others.
The tsechu started with the ancient dance of local deities, doe-gay-bak-cham, which now enters its 244th year.
Bakcham was led by Jaro Dongchen, the heart son (thuksey) of Yeshey Goenpo, the protecting deity of Bhutan and the Bakcham was performed by 27 mask dancers representing various local deities.
According to Lopen Karma Choeda, due to renovation works at the dzong since 2014, the annual tsechu was performed at Trashigang middle secondary school’s football ground for the last four years.
However, he said that the doe-gay-bak-cham (Bakcham) is so sacred that it is forbidden to perform outside the corridors of the dzong. “We first perform Bakcham in the dzong and then continue the tsechu at the school ground during the time of dzong renovation,” said Lopen Karma Choeda.
He said that unlike other chams, the dance of the local deities must not leave the corridors of the dzong. “The dance represents the once fierce demons who wreaked havoc and created disorder among the people, finally brought under the control and made the protectors of the land by the spiritual masters,” said Karma Choeda. “It is one of the most sacred chams performed during the Trashigang tsechu.”
Further, Lopen said that the opportunity to witness the Bakcham a rare and sacred opportunity for the public as the masks and the customs of the deities are taken out only once a year. “Along with 25 guardian deities from across the country, the local deity of Trashigang, Garab Wangchuk and another deity Tawangpa, also features in the cham.”
Karma Choeda said that a similar cham with the same name is also performed during tsechus in Trongsa, Lhuentse and Paro. The sacred Bakcham is performed for almost three hours.
A resident from Trashigang said that ever since the tsechu was conducted at the school ground, the annual event has become more of an entertainment. “However, we are glad that this year, the tsechu is being conducted in the dzong after four years and the charm of witnessing a tsechu in the dzong is totally different.”
Additionally, he said that he never misses a chance to witness the sacred Bakcham as the cham has rich moral values and uniqueness. “People from as far as Samdrup Jongkhar come to witness the sacred cham.”
Lopen Karma Choeda, said that during the fourday tsechu, thongdrol of Neten Chudrug (sixteen Arhats), is unfurled and on the final day of the tsechu, the thongdrol of Guru Tshengyed is also displayed.
Meanwhile, for the religious, the festival is a time to gain merit and blessings, while for the business-minded, it is also a time to earn some good money.
Among more than 40 shopkeepers who travelled to Trashigang is a shop owner, Kuenga Samdrup from Samdrupjongkhar. The 40-year-old said he is a regular shopkeeper in all 20 dzongkhags during tsechus and other celebrations.
“I go with my goods wherever there are festivals and occasions. I started moving around the country since 2010,” he said. “Tsechu and other festivals are opportunities to make good money.”
A total of 42 plots were divided at the archery range and the shopkeepers were given limited space so that everyone could get a space to pitch their stalls this year.
This year, with the renovation and conservation works of the dzong completed, the dzongkhag’s annual tsechu is being held in the 359-year-old dzong after four years.