Festivals of Bhutan

Bhutan’s festivals are extremely lively and vibrant. Its people clad in colorful traditional Bhutanese attire, its spicy and zesty cuisine, various mask dances and dramas, makes it an eye-catching ambience in Bhutan.

Tshechus, held on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar, are among the most celebrated festivals, particularly the Paro Tshechu (Spring Festival) and Thimphu Tshechu (Fall Festival). With at least 1 festival taking place every month, one does wonder how they manage it all. But each festival comes with its own unique identity, history and diverse themes. Out of the numerous festivals Bhutan has to offer, let’s take a look at few of the popular ones.

1. Paro Tshechu
Held every spring, Paro Tshechu is one of the most colorful and significant events in Paro district. The Tshechu is considered a major attraction and people travel from neighboring districts to participate in the festivity. At dawn on the last day of the celebration the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting), the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong. Thongdrols are impressive examples of Buddhist art and keep spectators in awe. Simply viewing a Thongdrol is considered so pure, it is said to wash one’s sins away.

Paro Tshechu Dates: April 7 – 11, 2017

2. Thimphu Tshechu & Thimphu Drubchen

One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. Several days prior to this grand festival, the Thimphu Drubchen takes place where thousands of people travel to the capital city and offer prayers and rituals to invoke the gods. Held at the Tashichho Dzong, both these festivals are among the extremely popular festivals in Bhutan.

When it was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances being performed strictly by monks. Later in the 1950s, the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous mask dances performed by lay monks that added color and variation to the festival without compromising on its spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage-theater. Short skits are also performed to spread health and social awareness messages.

These festivals are also a break for farmers from their farm life who celebrate, receive blessings and pray on this happy occasion.

Thimphu Drubchen Dates: Sept 26 – 29, 2017
Thimphu Tshechu Dates: Sept 30 – Oct 2, 2017

3. Punakha Tshechu

After several requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people, Punakha Tshechu was introduced in 2005 by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. This Tshechu was established to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche, the unifier of Bhutan.

This festival not only plays an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provides devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special for both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.

Punakha Tshechu Dates: March 7 – 9, 2017


4. Black Necked Crane Festival

The Black-necked Crane festival is celebrated annually in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley. Unlike other festivals, this festival is celebrated to mark the arrival of this endangered and majestic bird which becomes an inseparable part of the locals’ daily lives during winter.

Organized to generate awareness on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes, the one day festival includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dances and environmental conservation-themed dramas.
The festival has become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley ever since it was first initiated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) in 1998.

Black Necked Crane Festival Dates: November 11, 2017

Learn Five Fun Facts

BHUTAN:

1. Bhutan is the only country that measures its progress by its “Gross National Happiness.” This tiny nation is arguably the happiest country on earth.

2. Bhutan’s people planted 108,000 trees to celebrate the birth of their new prince in 2016. Not to forget, plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 1999.

3. Bhutan is the only nation in the world where the sale of tobacco is banned. Those who bring their own tobacco products into Bhutan are subject to duties and customs at the Paro Airport.

4. Until the 1960’s, Bhutan had no roads, automobiles, telephone, postal system or electricity. Bhutanese had no access to TV or Internet until limited access was permitted in 1999.

5. The first foreign tourists were allowed into Bhutan in 1974.

NEPAL:

1. The flag of Nepal is the only National flag that is not rectangular in shape and is over 2000 years old.

2. 8 of the world’s 10 highest peaks are in Nepal, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest at 8,848 m (29.029 ft).

3. Nepal has the world’s densest concentration of World Heritage Sites.

4. Nepal has over 80 ethnic groups and 123 languages.

5. “Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gurkha soldiers who are an integral part of the British Army since 1815.

TIBET:

1. Titled the “Roof of the World”, Tibet is literally the highest place on earth with an average elevation of 4,500 m (14,764 ft).

2. Tibetan people by tradition place prayer flags around their houses & properties for spiritual protection. These prayer flags are made up of 5 natural elements each a different color of blue, white, red, green, yellow each symbolizing Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

3. Tibet is known as the world’s “Third Pole” as, after the North and South Poles, it holds the third largest quantity of glacially stored water.

4. Potala Palace, the chief residence of the Dalai Lama is exclusively constructed on “Marpori” that translates as “Red Mountain”. The 13-storied palace has no elevator with about 1,000 rooms to explore and houses 200,000 Buddhist images.

5. Namtso, ‘the heavenly lake’, is the highest saltwater lake in the world that leaves one spellbound by its glistening beauty, pure blue water, and spiritual element.

National Geographic: World’s Best Hikes

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

This year National Geographic asked 20 outdoor luminaries—from trail runners to CEOs to beloved authors—about the trails they dream about. Here are their picks for the world’s best hikes.

1. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
EBC
Follow the footsteps of legends like Messner, Bonington and Hillary, up to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and experience how they felt during their quest to Everest. Home of the renowned Sherpas, the mountain hardy people and the realm of Everest, this region needs no introduction. Itinerary in detail

2. Snowman Trek, Bhutan
Snowman

Listed as one of the most difficult treks of the world, the spectacular Snowman trek takes you into one of the country’s most remote valleys. Bhutan’s pristine landscape, friendly people and fascinating Buddhist culture provide the ingredients for a memorable journey into one of the world’s most remote kingdoms. Itinerary in detail

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Bhutan

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Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Tour to Bhutan in April 2016.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were recently in Bhutan after their trip to India. During their two-day visit to Bhutan, their Royal Highnesses received an audience with Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Queen Jetsun Pema.

The Royal couple took the five hour hike to the famous Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest. They lit butter lamps at a Buddhist temple and interacted with the local students. They also tried their hand on dart and archery, Bhutan’s national sport.

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Lighting/offering butter lamps is the most powerful way of accumulating merit to create positive short term circumstances like health, wealth, longevity and wisdom.