One of the main attractions of the kingdom is its annual religious festivals, the tsechus celebrated to honor Guru Padmasambhava (more commonly referred to as "Guru Rinpoche"). All of Guru Rinpoche's great deeds are believed to have taken place on the 10th day of the month, which is the meaning of the word tsechu. Tsechus are celebrated for several days and are the occasion for dances that are clearly defined in religious content. The religious dances called "cham" can be grouped into three broad categories: dramas with a moral, dances for purification and protection from harmful spirits and dances that proclaim the victory of Buddhism and the glory of Guru Rinpoche. The dancers, either monks or laymen, wear spectacular costumes of bright silk or brocade, ornate hats and extraordinary masks.
Another highlight of the Tsechus are the Atsaras or clowns who are believed to represent Acharyas, religious masters of India. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics whenever the religious dances begin to grow tedious. They are the only people permitted to mock religion in a society where sacred matters are treated with the highest respect.
For the Bhutanese, attendance at religious festivals offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and to gain much merit. The festivals are also occasions for seeing people, and for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success.
FESTIVAL DATES TILL - 2016
Bhutan International Marathon
(Annual event organized by bhutan olympic committee)
Punakha Dzong, Punakha
14th - 16th February
Punakha Dzong, Punakha
Shingkhar Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang
17th -19th February
Tharpalinglhakhang, chhumi, bumthang
22ndfebruary & 9thmarch
17th -18th march
16th -18th march
14th -17th march
16th -18th march
19th – 23rd march
Lamperi botanical garden, Dochula, thimphu
Domkhar, chummi, bumthang
Nimalungdratshang, Chummi, bumthang
Jambay Lhakhang Drub
Haa summer Festival
Town festival ground, haa
2nd -3rd august
Masutake Mushroom festival
22nd – 23rd august
15th -19th august
Tour of the dragon (bicycle race)
Bumthang to thimphu
Tencholing army ground, Wangduephodrang
9th – 11thseptember
Gangteygonpa, phobjikha, wanduephodrang
Tamshinglhakhang, Choekhor, bumthang
Tangbilhakhang, choekor, Bumthang
Prakarlhakhang, chummi, Bumthang
Jomolhari mountain festival
Jakardzong, choekhor, bumthang
Black necked crane Festival
Gangteygonpa, phobjikha, Wangduephodrang
Ngaalhakhang, choekhor, bumthang
Jambaylhakhang, choekhor, Bumthang
11th -14th december
19th -23rd december
NOTE: - Religious festival dates are tentative, please confirm with your tour operator prior Tentative Festival Dates for 2017 to booking your holiday.
Black Necked Cranes Festival:
The Blacked Necked Crane Festival is held anually on 11th November coinciding with the Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck ,at Gangtey, Phobjikha. The festival date has been fixed for 11th November so that the locals and students can participate in it too.
Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and blessed by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The dancers, whether monks or laymen, are in a state of meditation. They transform themselves into the deities which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.
With this in mind, it should be clear that obtrusive, disrespectful or discourteous behavior is out of place. Remember, too, that smoking is not permitted in public places in Bhutan. The dance ground is not a place to eat, drink, talk or laugh loudly at inappropriate times, flash cameras or intrude on the dance space. Common courtesy should rule one's action when photographing dances or onlookers.
Festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are not held as tourist attractions. They are genuine manifestations of religious traditions thousands of years old which outsiders are given the privilege of witnessing.
Festivals are held all the year round at temples, dzongs and monasteries throughout Bhutan. Attendance at one of these religious events provides an opportunity for the outsider to experience the extraordinary.