Bhutanese festivals and holidays are always based on Buddhist calendar events, and they take place throughout the year. They are festive festivities distinguished by masked and costumed dances performed by monks and villagers. The event lasts between two and four days. Traditional music and song, processions, archery trials, and other indigenous activities accompany these dances.
These customs are passed down from generation to generation and preserved well through celebrations. The main value of any festival in a Buddhist country is to thank the deities and pray for the well-being of all sentient creatures. Though Bhutan has many festivals and holidays, the most well-known are listed below.
Thimphu Tshechu, one of Bhutan’s most important festivals, begins on the 10th day of the eighth month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar. The Tshechu is a festival in celebration of Guru Rinpoche, the Indian saint who brought tantric Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century. Over the course of three days, monks and laypeople conduct mask dances in the open air. Thimphu Tshechu was established in 1867 by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay. Every district in the country has its own Tshechu, which varies in length and date but always falls on the 10th day of the month on the Bhutanese calendar. For this tsechu, the holiday is only observed in Thimphu.
Royal Highland Festival
The Royal Highlander Festival, which takes place in Laya, is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the Gasa Dzongkhag. It attracts visitors from all across the country. However, due to its location at 3800 meters above sea level, only a few people get a chance to attend. It was originally presented on October 16, 2016, to commemorate HRH the Gyalsey’s birth, zhabdrung Rinpoche’s 400th year, and Guru Rinpoche’s Rabjung (60-year cycle) birth year.
During the festival, visitors can see the traditional offering of Buelwa (Gift offering) with Auley (traditional epic poem/song recitation tradition dating back to Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s reign) that began during Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s reign in showing loyalty and respect by the Laya community for dynamic and visionary monarchical leadership.
Layaps present a variety of cultural programs. There are competitions on highland animals such as Yaks, horses, and Mastiffs, as well as traditional songs and dances. The event features a variety of vendors that sell anything from local yak products to highland technology, highland agriculture technologies, medicinal herbs and plants, and more.
In Bhutan, the Rhododendron Festival is an exuberant event that celebrates the arrival of spring with full bloom flowers and lush green forest. We commemorate the spring season in Bhutan with the Rhododendron festival.
The festival takes place over three days in Lamperi Botanical Garden. Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city, is 35 kilometers away. Lamperi Botanical Garden is a must-see eco-tourism destination in Bhutan. There are currently 46 Rhododendron species known and reported in Bhutan, including 29 species found in Lamperi.
The three-day Rhododendron festival, which showcases diverse Rhododendron species in full bloom, was first held in 2013 as an event to commemorate the rare blossoms and promote eco-tourism. The festival’s major goal is to highlight the environment, culture, food, and entertainment of the local populations who coexist with these eco-parks. This project also provides an opportunity to combine environmental and cultural issues. The Rhododendron Festival takes place every year.
After the Dromchoe, the Punakha Tshechu takes place, making it a week-long celebration of a beautiful festival. The Punakha Tshechu is highlighted by chams (masked dances) and massive offerings to Guru Rinpoche and other local deities over the course of three days. Many situations from the life of the great Buddhist saint and teacher are shown through the chams. Local villagers also take part in the festivities, singing and dancing in accordance with their customs. A Thongdrol (a big religious painting) showing an image of Zhabdrung is displayed on the event’s last day. Witnessing the masked dance and the thongdrol is said to clean you of your sins. The thongdrol is seen at dawn, rolls up at sunrise, and is only seen on the next Tshechu.