Festivals in Bhutan are usually rollicking affairs and have reputation for being robustiously joyful and colorful affairs. Our festival tours shares our unique country with those who wish to experience the very best of what we have to offer.
The town, valleys, Dzongs and the streets come alive with ethereal euphoric colors, light, music and dance as valley dwellers and town folks showcases the best exemplary design of Bhutanese costume and jewelry, and join together to celebrate and rejoice. It is not just the moment for social get-together, where people enjoy a convivial light hearted atmosphere, but also a time to renew one’s faith, receive blessings by watching the sacred dances, or receive ’empowerments from a lama or Buddhist monk.
This festival is celebrated to commemorate the great deeds of the 8th century Tantric Master Guru Padmasambhava. ‘Guru Rinpoche’ or simply ‘Guru’. He introduced the Nyingma school of Buddhism in Tibet and Bhutan. Each 10th day of the lunar calendar is said to commemorate a special event in the life of Padmasambhava and some of these are dramatized in the context of a religious festival. Most of the festivals last from three to five days – of which one day usually falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar.
The mask dances are performed by lamas, monks and lay village elders (community folk dancers) dressed in bright costumes, the chhams are synchronized according to the music of monastic orchestra. The specialty of the festival differs from one district to another.
The carved wooden phalluses, richly embellished by sculpture are also displayed by the Atsara. Atsaras or clowns moves through the crowds mimicking the dancers and performing comic routines in their masks with long red noses. Atsara are treated with respect as they are believed to be the ancient Acharyas the Sanskrit word for teachers.
Most of the dances date back from beyond the middle ages and are only performed once or twice each year. It is believed that merit is gained by attending such religious festivals. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase luck and grant personal wishes. Folk dances are also performed in community in its own style and manner and have its own significance. Folk dances differ from district to district and mostly are an influence of Bon era.
Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqus or Throngdrels. Thongdrols are large Thangkas or religious pictures that are usually embroidered rather than painted. The word itself means ‘liberation on sight.’ It is believed that bad karmas are expiated simply by viewing it. This is done before sunrise and most people rush to witness the moment.
Thimphu and Paro festivals are the most popular for tourists as they are the most easily accessible. There are other regional Dromchoes and Tshechu’s around the year, taking place in different localities of the kingdom, which are equally fascinating. The Tshechu at Bumthang is well known for taking place almost entirely during the evening and containing exciting fire dances.
Those visitors seeking a more intimate and serene experience in Bhutan should consider avoiding these major festivals as they mark the busiest time of the year for the tourism industry.
Photography should always be discreet. It is generally allowed to take photographs at Tshechu but not at Dromchoe.
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