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Better Bhutan

2019 & 2020 Festivals in Bhutan

Annual religious festivals in Bhutan ("tsechus" and "dromches") are important spiritual and community occasions that give visitors a chance to experience the music and dance that are an integral part in the Bhutanese cultural life. Every village has its own tradition of dance that celebrate faith, community and tradition. They are also important social gatherings that attract people from great distances to see each eather once a year. Everyone wears their finest traditional clothing ("ghos" worn by men and "kiras" worn by women).

Bhutanese culture and tradition are influenced very heavily by Buddhism. Festivals are dedicated to saints and other deities and are celebrated in dzongs (fortress temples) and other places of religious importance These festivals are uniquely Bhutanese and have evolved over centuries as one way to retell ancient legends and reinforce Buddhist values and interpret Buddhist scripture. The principal rituals of these festivals involve stories told through dance by men wearing costumes and masks. Ritual dances are strictly carefully choreographed and not subject to artistic interpretation. The dances invoke deities of the tantric teaching, whose power removes the sins and bad luck of all who are present.

Below are dates of the principal festivals in Bhutan for as far in advance as we know them. These are by no means the only festivals in Bhutan. The largest and most interesting are described below. There are more than 2000 monasteries in the country and many of them have a festival of some kind. Hopefully, you will be able to include at least one in your own Bhutan adventure.

☆ While visitors are welcome at any of the festivals shown below, a star indicates those that we think are going to be the best opportunities to add a unique cultural experience to an adventure in Bhutan. This is based almost entirely on the convenience of the festival's location.

2019 Festival Schedule
 ☆ 12 - 14 February  Punakha Drebchen Punakha
 ☆ 15 - 17 February  Punakha Tsheshu  Punakha 
 ☆ 19 February Tharpaing Thangdrol Tharpaling Lhakhang, Chumi Bumthang
  14 - 16 March Gomphukora Gom Khora Lhakhang, Trashigang
 ☆ 14 - 16 March Talo Tshechu Talo Gonpa, Punakha
  14 - 16 March Gasa Tshechu Gasa Dzong, Gasa
  14 - 17 March Zhemgang Tshechu Zhemgang Dzong, Zhemgang
 ☆ 17 - 21 March Paro Tshechu Rinpung Dzong, Paro
  21 March & 05 April Chorten Kora Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtshe
14 - 16 April Domkhar Tshechu Domkhar, Chumi, Bumthang
  16 - 20 April Ura Yakchoe Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang
19 - 21 April Rhododendron Festival Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochu La
  ☆  04 - 06 April  Gomphukora  Trashigang 
10 - 11 July    Nimalung Tshechu    Nimalung Dratshang, Chumi,Bumthang   
11 July    Kurjey Tshechu    Kurje Lhakhang, Choekhor,Bumthang   
  13 - 14 July Haa Summer Festival Haa
  15 - 16 August Mushroom Festival Genekha, Thimphu
23 - 24 August Matsutaki Mushroom Festival Ura, Bumthang
07 September    Tour of the Dragon Bike Race Bumthang to Thimphu   
03 October   Thimphu Drupchen    Thimphu   
05 - 07 October  Wangdue Tshechu    Tencholg Army Ground,Wangduephodrang   
07 - 09 October Tamshing Phala Chhoepa Tamshing Lhakhang,Bumthang   
07 - 09 October Thimphu Tsiechu    Tashi Chhodzong,Thimphu   
10 - 13 October Ganteay Tshechu Gateay Guompa, Phobjikha
10 - 13 October    Thangbi Mani    Thingbi Lhakhang, Choekor,Bumthang   
  14 - 15 October Jamolhari Mountain Festival Dangochong, Thimphu
05 - 09 November   Jakar Tshechu    Jakar, Bumthang  
  06 - 08 November Chhukha Tsiechu    Chhukha Dzong, Chhukha   
  08 November Dechenphu Tshechu Dechenphy Lhakhang, Thimphu
11 November    Black Necked Crane Festival    Phobjikha   
  11 - 13 November Pemagatshel Tshechu Pemagatshel Dzong, Pemagatshel
 ☆  13 - 16 November    Jambay Lhakhang Drup      Jambay Lhakhang, Choekor,Bumthang    
14 - 16 November  Prakhar Duchcoed Prakhar Khakhang, Chumi,Bumthang  
  ☆  04 - 06 December Mongar Tshechu    Mongar Dzong, Mongar
05 - 07 December Trashigang Tshechu Trashigang Dzong, Trashigang
12 December  Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham Jambay Lhakhang, Choekor, Bumthang
12 - 14 December    Nalakhar Tshechu  Ngaa Lhakhang, Choekor, Bumthang
13 December    Druk Wangyel Tshechu    Dochu La
Tentative 2020 Festival Schedule
 02-04 March Punakha Drebchen Punakha Dzong, Punakha
 05-07 March Punakha Tsechu Punakha Dzong, Punakha
     09 March Tharpaling Thangdrol Tharpaling Lhakhang, Chumi, Bumthang
     01-03 April Gomphu Kora Gomkora Lhakhang, Trashigang
   01-03 April   Talo Tshechu Talo Gompa, Punakha
     01-03 April   Gasa Tshechu  Gasa Dong, Gasa
   01-03 April Zhemang Tshechu Zhemgang Dzong, Zhemgang
 04-08 April Paro Tshechu Rimpung Dzong, Paro
 08 and 22 April Chorten Kora  Chorten Kora, Trashyangtse
   03-05 May Domkhar Tshechu Domkhar, Chumi, Bumthang
     04-08 May Ura Yakchoe Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang
Festival schedules are subject to change! If you plan to attend a specific festival it is advisable to double check dates with us.

Thimphu Drupchen & Thimphu Tshechu

These two festivals occur back-to-back in Thimphu, the capital city. The Thimphu Tsechu is the biggest and most spectacular of Bhutan's festivals and dates back to 1707. People flock to the capital dressed in their traditional finery to receive blessings and watch masked dances and colorful symbolic dramas performed in the courtyard of the Thimphu Dzong. There are also clowns, called Atsaras who entertain audiences. Meanwhile, Bhutanese ladies dance and sing around the crowds. There are also distinctive masked dances.

Paro Tshechu

Since most Bhutanese people believe that they must attend the Paro Tschechu at least once in their lives, it is one of the biggest and most interesting. The highlight of this festival is the unveiling of the thongdrol, an enormous religious tapestry, before sunrise on the final day of the festival. It is seen only once a year, and may never be touched by the rays of the sun. It is believed that those who are fortunate enough to see it are cleansed of all their sins. History has it that despite several fires, the thongdrol has always miraculously escaped damage or destruction.

Jambay Lhakang Drup

This festival is held at Bumthang Valley's temple of  Jambay Lhakhang, which is steeped in mysticism. It is perhaps the most unusual of Bhutan's spiritual gatherings One of the  festival events invites the faithful to run through an archway of buring straw. Another is a midnight dance that is performed completely naked except for masks. A remarkable " penis ceremony " is also a fascinating part of the festivities.

Crane Festival

The first Crane Festival in 1998 was created by a non-profit organization to support the development of the Phobjikha community. Foreign visitors pay $50 each to attend, which also helps Black Necked Crane conservation.

Thangbi Mani

Thangbi Mani festival is one of the most popular festivals held in Chhoekhor Geog, near Jakar in the Bumthang Valley in the courtyard of a monastery built in 1470. It is famous for a fire dance performed by the monks of the monastery, as well as purification rituals involving fire. Those who can jump over aflame three times are protected from bad luck for a year. There are also masked dances, some of which are considered to have secret powers.  Residents of the hamlets of  Tangbi, Goling and Kharsath organize the festival to bring happiness and to insure a good harvest, and to elevate the prosperity of their communities.

Punakha Dromchoe and Punakha Tsechu

Two festivals  occur sequentially in Punakha. First, the five-day Dromchoe, celebrates the defeat of invading Tibetans in 1639. You will see plenty of recreated battles, horsemanship and swordplay. In the original conflict the Tibetans attempted to retrieve a "stolen" sacred artifact. The smaller Bhutanese army marched out the front door of the dzong and returned through the back door over and over, giving the Tibetans the impression that the locals had an enormous army. Later, the Bhutanese ceremoniously threw an empty box into the river. Thinking that the sacred artifact was lost forever, the frightened, disappointed Tibetans withdrew. You can still see the relic in Punakha Dzong. The Tsechu is primarily a religious festival that includes plenty of masked dancers.

Tamshingphala Choepa

This festival is held at the "Temple of Good Message," established in 1501, which makes this one of the oldest religious places in Bhutan. Monks perform mask dances, as with all Bhutanese festivals. What makes this one special is that monastery is one of only very few Nyingma (a very old and uniquely Tibetan denomination of Buddhism) temples in the Kingdom. Very few foreigners find their way here, which affords those who do a very unique and unspoiled cultural experience.

Trashigang Tshechu

Trashigang is the largest town in eastern Bhutan. This medieval dzong holds a very colorful country-style festival attracts people all over Bhutan, including tribal Merak and Sakteng people. The local folks, who wear costumes not seen anywhere else in Bhutan, make the festival really interesting. Few foreigners venture this far. In addition to masked dancers and ritual blessings, a large painted thangka (a painting or appliqué on fabric that depicts a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala) is displayed.



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