The festivals in Bhutan are numerous. Each district performs annual festival (tsechu) that falls on the 10th day of the month of the Bhutanese calendar. It is the spiritual occasion in honour of Guru Padmashambhava, one who was born from a lotus flower and popularly known as Guru Rimpoche, “The precious Teacher”. Festivals are also social gatherings where people from all walks of life gather to rejoice together, dressed in all their finery.
Tsechus or the festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are the genuine manifestations of religious tradition that is many hundreds of years old which can also be witnessed by the outsiders. Most of the dances date back from beyond the middle Ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and is performed by monks as well as layman dressed in bright costumes. However, some dances are performed only by the monks. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqués or Thongdrols. The moment of the unveiling creates great excitement among all the participants.
The Dzongs come to life with colour, music and terrifying masked and sword dances and other rituals. Tourists are allowed into the Dzongs to watch the spectacle, but not the inner sanctuaries.
However, photography should always be discreet. Generally photographs are allowed during Tsechus but not for Dromches.
Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang festivals are the most popular for tourists as they are given most importance. There are other regional Dromches and Tsechus around the year, taking place in different localities of the kingdom, which are equally fascinating. Check the Festival date list. The Tsechu of one temple in Bumthang is well known for taking place almost entirely during the evening and containing exciting fire dances. (Detail itineraries are available on request).