Festivals or Tshechu (“tenth day”) are Bhutanese festivals held every year in various temples monasteries and dzongs across the country. The Tshechu is mainly a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However the month of Tshechu depends from place to place and temple to temple.
Tshechus are large social gatherings where people from various villages come together to witness the religious mask dances which are based on incidents from as long as 8th century from the life of Guru Padmasambhava and to receive blessings from lamas. The event also consists of colorful Bhutanese dances and other entertainments. The dances are known as Cham and are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil, the dancers who take on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons and animals do this. Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel and Pema Lingpa were main figures who composed many of the dances. It is believed that merit is gained by attending these religious festivals.
The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase luck and general personal wishes. Onlookers rarely fail to notice the Atsara or clowns who move through the crowds, mimicking the dancers and performing comic routines in their masks with the long red noses. A group of ladies perform traditional Bhutanese dances during the intervals between masked dances.
An auspicious event of the many of the Tshechus is the in furling of the Thongdrel from the building overlooking the dance area. This is done before sunrise and most people rush to witness the moment. Thongdrols are large Thangkas or religious pictures that re usually embroidered rather than painted. The word itself means, “Liberation on sight”. It is believed that sins are wiped away simply by viewing it.
Every mask dances performed during Tshechu has a meaning or a story behind. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men. Besides the locals many tourists from across the world are attracted to this unique, colorful and exciting culture.
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