The popular festivals in Bhutan have a name of their own. They are known as tshechus and are the Bhutanese festivals which are most representative of the Buddhist culture. They are celebrated throughout the country according to the Buddhist lunar calendar.
As mentioned previously, the largest festivals in Bhutan are the tshechus which exist through the oral tradition. Mythology and religious beliefs are performed through dramatic dances, with the characters dressed in richly-coloured attire. The brightly-coloured costumes, the masks and the music will transport you to another place.
Below are the most notable events in Bhutan. These are the ones you should not miss.
Punakha Drubchen and Punakha Tshechu
This festival takes place from the 15th to the 17th of February to commemorate the battle fought against the Tibetan army. Despite this, it is not a celebration of war, but the opposite. The Bhutanese hold this festival to celebrate the peace that the victory brought to the country.
Just after this, the Punakha Tshechu begins. This is celebrated in the territories of the magnificent Punakha Dzong. This Buddhist festival is held in honour of Guru Rimpoche and consists of different dances and unique celebrations. The display of the thongdrol (applique silk work) is the main attraction of the festival. It is believed that a single glance of the thongdrol will free the spectator and cleanse them of their sins.
The Paro Tshechu takes place between the 21st and the 27th of March. Both the monks and the rest of the lay population wear traditional clothing to dance and enjoy the celebrations, which last for four consecutive days. Here, all one’s expectations are placed on the final moment, when an ancient Tangka is displayed. At 350 years old, it is one of the most ancient of the Buddhist religion.
Festival of Gomphu Kora
This is another popular Bhutanese festival that is also celebrated from the 14th to the 16th of March. The celebration gets its name from an ancient meditation cave where, it is said that the deity Gomphu Kora defeated an evil spirit in this same place.
The Bhutanese make a great pilgrimage to this region as it is one of the country’s most sacred festivals. The most notable part of this celebration is to try the water of immortality that emanates from the holy cave, or to dance all night with the locals.
Festival de Sakteng
If you want to go to one of the most colourful Bhutanese festivals, travel between the 12th and the 16th of June. Bhutanese people from all over the country go to the Sakten Valley dressed in their traditional clothing. There are many traditional dance performances, but best of all are the Yak and Ache Lhamo dances.
Haa Summer Festival
This famous festival takes place between the 13th and the 14th of July. It is famous for, firstly, the festival location, which is the exuberant Haa Valley and, secondly, because it is an exponent of the country’s traditional nomad culture. There are many local games, dances, gastronomy and many amusements.
If you are in the Ura Valley during the 23rd and the 24th of August, you will be able to go to this festival whose principal element is gastronomy. During the festival you can try different types of mushrooms which can only be found in Bhutan. The locals allow the tourists to stay in their houses, to learn about their traditional cuisine, they award them prizes for preparing family recipes, and much more.
Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu
To attend this celebration you will need to travel to Bhutan between the 5th and the 8th of October. The festival gets its name from the region in which it is celebrated, Wangdue Phodrang. It is famous for its local songs and speeches, which are known as Lozeys. This annual festival has been celebrated since the 17th century. The Dance of the Oxen is one of its high points, and it is said that this dance guarantees a happy life.
Also in October, a little later in the month, between the 7th and 9th, the iconic earth celebration takes place. This is one of the popular festivals of Bhutan that gathers the most attendees. The locals dress in traditional attire and enjoy dancing and other cultural activities in the courtyard of the fortress of Tahichhodzong. The best dances are the 21 black hat dances representing different Buddhist deities.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
This celebration takes place from the 13th to the 19th of November. It includes masked dances, rituals and other ceremonies. Nonetheless, this festival is notable for the fire ceremony, in which participants run under a door surrounded by the flames of dried grasses. The Dance of the Treasure is another unique attraction of this festival, in which the masked dancers perform a unique dance in the middle of the night, naked. It is said that this dance blesses infertile women so that they can have children.
As you can see, there are many popular festivals in Bhutan, so be sure to prepare your trip so that you can go to some of them.