About Festivals (Tshechu) in Bhutan
Festivals in the Kingdom of Bhutan are rich and happy expressions of its ancient Buddhist culture. These religious festivals are locally known as Tsechu which means tenth day of a month in Bhutanese lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinphoche. Tsechus are held throughout Bhutan in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th Century. Festivals are held from 10th day of auspicious Bhutanese months at the dzongs (fortresses) or at monasteries and usually last for 3 to 5 days. During Tsechus religious mask dances and folk dances are performed with occasional entertainment by Astara (clowns).
Festivals are also a time for a big family and social gathering occasions for Bhutanese people. People from all walks of life come to witness the festivals in their finest cloths and most resplendent jewelry of corals and turquoise. They pack their picnic lunches in their traditional colorful containers made out of bamboo and stay all day at the festivals.
Tsechus are a rich form of the oral history and traditions where Bhutanese pass on values, mythology and spiritual beliefs through the dance dramas. Many of the Tsechus conclude with unfurling of Thongdroel , a giant silk Thangkha ( painting) depicting Guru Rinpoche or some other important Buddhist deity. The thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring blessings to all who view it.
7 Night 8 Day Thimphu Tshechu Festival Tour
Thimphu Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. This festival is held in Thimphu for 3 days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Thimphu Tsechu was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 and later some changes were introduced in Thimphu Tshechu in the 1950s by the third Kingof Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
This Thimphu festival is witnessed by thousands of people from all over Bhutan. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.
To Bhutanese farmers, the Thimphu Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It is an annual social gathering where people dress in their finest clothing and jewelries come to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.
It brings you a closer contact with the local people and gives you an insight into the Bhutanese lives, beliefs and more.
During Thimphu Tshechu which is held at Tendrel Thang ( Festival Ground in front of Tashichhoedzong), the mask dances known as cham and folk dances are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil. It is believed that merit is gained by attending these festivals. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase good luck and grant personal wishes.
The sacred Thongdrol of Guru Rinphoche is unfurled early in the morning on the last day of Thimphu Tshechu. It is believed that the Thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring blessings to all who view it.
8 Night 9 Day Thimphu Festival Tour Itinerary
Day 1 Arrive Paro,Paro-Thimphu (54 km-1 hour drive)
If you arrive on a bright sunny day, your holiday began with the panoramic view of the Himalaya range from your flight seat, you will be greeted by Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga, and our very own Mt.Jomolhari and Mt.Jichu Drakey. An unparalleled feeling while you are descending over Bhutan is a feeling which is of total abandonment, a feeling which is inexplicably, compassionate and full of suspense as visibly seen in the growing communion between the passengers.
Upon arrival you will be received by our guide who will help you settle into your comfortable car and will be heading to capital city Thimphu.
On arrival at Thimphu check into your hotel and after lunch visit the following:
Bhutan Post Office Headquarters to get personalized Bhutanese postage stamps with your photo on them. You can bring along your favorite photo to put on the stamps and put these stamps on your postcard to send to your family and friends.
Changzamtok Weaving Centerto observe beautiful colourful silk and cotton textiles being woven into shawls, scarves and traditional Bhutanese dresses.
In the evening, free to relax or stroll around Thimphu town, do shopping, etc.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 2 1st Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival)- (9.am-4.30 pm)
After breakfast you will go to witness the 1st Day of Thimphu Tshechu (Festival) which will be held at Tendrel Thang (the festival ground in front of Thimphu Tashichhodzong). Dressed in traditional finery, devotees flock to Tendrel Thang to proclaim their faith and receive blessings.
You will take off sometime from the festival to visit Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
After the festival you will visit the following:
Watch Archery match, Bhutan’s national game
Kuenselphodrangwhere the Bhutan’s largest Buddha statue (167 feet tall) is perched on the hillock overlooking the entire Thimphu valley below and the view from there is magnificent.
National Memorial Chorten, chorten literally means ‘ seat of faith’ and Buddhists often call such monuments the ‘Mind of Buddha’. Meet the elderly generation in circumambulation at the National Memorial Chorten.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu
Day 3 Thimphu Tsechu 2nd Day,Thimphu sightseeing & Short Hike to Tango Monastery
After breakfast visit the following:
Centenary Farmers’ Market (open from Thu-Sun only): Most of the Thimphu’s population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held by the side of Wangchu River. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday afternoon till Sunday evening. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy souvenirs.
Go to Tendrel Thang to get a glimpse of the 2ndDay of Thimphu Festival and stay at the festival for about an hour or so.
National Textile Museum which is a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs.You will also see people weaving with intricate designs.
After lunch drive for about 30 minutes to the base camp of Tango Monastery and hike up to the Monastery. The walk up to the Monastery is through the forest filled with Rhododendron flower trees which will be in full bloom during April month. Tango Monastery is the center for higher studies for monks. The view from Tango Monastery is breathtakingly beautiful. You will experience complete peace and serenity in this area. After visiting the monastery, walk back to the road and then drive back to Thimphu .
Dinner & overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 4 Last Day of Thimphu Tshechu
In the early morning go to Tashichoedzong and witness and get blessing from the sacred Thongdrol of Guru Rinphoche which will be unfurled early in the morning on the last day of Thimphu Tshechu. It is believed that the Thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring blessings to all who view it.
Then return to your hotel for breakfast after which you will proceed to Tendrel Thang (festival ground) to witness the most spectacular last day of Thimphu Tsechu with religious dance performances mixed with folk dances and dance of Bhutanese warriors. People from all walks of life gather at the festival in their finest dresses and ornaments.
After the festival visit the following:
Traditional Bhutanese paper making factory. The handmade paper making in Bhutan stemmed from the age old tradition originated in 8th century of Bhutanese history. The handmade paper constitutes as valuable National heritage of Bhutanese cultural identity and is preserved through all the ages. The Traditional paper is recognized and held high esteem both in home and outside world. Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The unit now boasts as a major and sole dealer in handmade paper and its products.
Takin Preserve,which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
Changankha Lhakhang(temple): This temple situated atop a small hound overlooking the Thimphu valley was built in the 13th century by the illustrious Lam Phajo Dugom Zhigpo. The temple is considered the spiritual home of children born in the Chang valley.
Overnight at a hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5 Thimphu-Punakha (77 km-3 hours drive)
After early breakfast, you will drive towards Punakha via Dochula Pass.
Dochula pass is located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu. The pass is popular for tourists for its ideal location from where one can enjoy 360 degree of beautiful panoramic view of Himalaya mountain range, especially on clear winter days. The beauty of this place is further enhanced by the Druk Wangyal Chortens-108 stupa built by the eldest Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. The pass is also popular spiritual place for both locals and tourists because of an important temple that is located on the crest of Dochula pass.
Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck has achieved a fine blend of history and mythology in the construction of The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) to honor His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appear to merge in the details of the lhakhang (temple) that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
Besides the spirituality of the place many Bhutanese families visit the pass during holidays and weekends to simply enjoy the scenery of the place with their pack lunch and hot tea. For the tourist the place is an ideal location to capture beautiful pictures of Himalaya mountain range during clear warm days.
Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong enrich your trip with the opportunity to see the highest standards in woodwork. Do not miss the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated.
The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as “Divine Madman”. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning “field”. It then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang.
Overnight in a hotel in Punakha.
Day 6 Oct 7: Punakha-Paro (131 km-4 hours drive)
After breakfast, travel through upper Punakha valley and take a hike through farmhouses to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Lhakhang (temple) built by Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck (the Queen Mother of Bhutan) for peace and stability in this ever-changing world. This temple is situated on the hilltop overlooking the valley below. The leisurely walk up to the temple would take about an hour. Visit the temple and also enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful view from there.
Then travel to Paro with lunch enroute. On arrival at Paro visit the following:
Rinpung Dzong,built in 1645 to defend the valley against Tibetan invaders. The Dzong is now being used as an administration center and school for monks.Then walk down to Rimpung Bridge (Traditonal Bridge), oldest bridge in Bhutan.
One time watch tower built to defend Rinpung Dozng during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, since 1967 Ta Dzong is serving as the National Museum of the country. It holds fascinating collection of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. The museum circular shape augments its varied collection displayed over several floors.
Farm housesin Paro Valley and a visit to a farm house offers a good glimpse into the lifestyle of a farmer.
Overnight at a hotel in Paro
Day 7 Hike to Tiger’s Nest
After breakfast, hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery). The hike upto the viewpoint will take about 1 1/2 hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff.You will stop here for refreshments and then hike further upto the monastery which should take another 1 1/2 hours.
It was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup, a cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three months in the 8th century. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) flew to this location from Khenpajong, Tibet on the back of a tigress and subdued a demon. He then performed meditation in one of the caves here and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and blessed the place. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the “Tiger’s Nest”. Guru Padmasambhava is known for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen caves in which he meditated.
After visiting the monastery, walk back downhill to the road with lunch at the viewpoint cafeteria. Then drive back to your hotel after visiting Kichu Lhakhang on the way. Kichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demon.
In the evening relax in the traditional hotstone bath after tiring day and overnight at a hotel in Paro.
Day 8 Departure from Paro
In the morning your guide will escort you to the airport for your flight onwards.