Every year on the 10th date of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar, a festival is held in the charming valley of Paro to celebrate the birth of Guru Rinpoche, a highly revered saint who spread Vajrayana Buddhism in Bhutan. Considered the most sacred of all Tshechu Festivals, the celebrations are a 5-day long colourful affair that bring together Bhutanese from all walks of life.
According to legends, Tshechus trace their roots back to the 8th century when Guru Rinpoche performed a series of mask dances to subjugate malevolent spirits that were harming Sindhu Raja, a king who reigned in now day present day Bumthang.
The Paro Tshechu takes place over a period of 5 days and it falls on the 10th day of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar. It usually falls during the month of March
The festival courtyard of Paro Dzong will be the site of celebrations. Attendees can access the venue after a brief 15-minute walk along a cobblestone path from the Nyamizampa bridge.
Itinerary for the Paro Tshechu
Mask Dances (Chham)
During the Tshechu celebrations, Mask dances are performed by monks and laymen accompanied by live music performed on traditional ceremonial instruments. Each dance has its own significance, some tell the tales and noble deeds of saints, others are performed to sanctify the festival grounds, and some are performed to impart blessings to those in attendance.
Folk Songs and Dance
People from various communities perform traditional songs and dance between the Mask dances to slow down the pace and allow the mask dancers for the next performance.
On the Final day of the Festival, A large Thongdrel (silk applique) depicting Guru Rinpoche is unfurled. The unfurling of the Thongdrel is considered as one of the most sacred ceremonies of the Tshechu and is attended by many devotees. Thongdrel translated means “Liberation by sight” as it is believed by the devotees that the mere act of gazing at it, one is purified and cleansed of negative Karma.
Away from the festival grounds are the various handicraft stalls you can visit to pick up a souvenir or a small gift for loved ones back home. Bhutanese textiles, woodwork and traditional paper products are just some of the products that throng these stalls.
Reasons to attend the Paro Tshechu
The Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. The Bhutanese consider it the most sacred from the other Tshechu festivals.
The Mask Dances are very colourful and enthralling, the highly decorative costumes and intricate dance moves will keep you entertained and allow you to capture some magical moments on your camera. Some of the dances require a high degree of athleticism as the performers leap into the air and perform a fold where their feet almost touch their heads.
During the festivals Bhutanese dress in their finest Ghos and Kiras. The attires are usually handwoven and some sport intricate and complex patterns that are captivating to the eye.
Glimpse into Bhutanese Life
Tshechus are a communal affair where whole families attend the event together. In the olden days it was also an event to catch up, exchange information and gossip with fellow Bhutanese from the neighbouring villages. Being a deeply religious society, the Tshechu also helps one to keep in touch with their spiritual roots.
Traveller’s Tips for the Paro Tshechu
The Paro Tshechu is one of the busiest times to visit Bhutan, so it would be advisable to book this trip 4-6 months in advance to secure both flights and hotels.
Reserve a Traditional dress
You can always reserve a traditional dress to wear when you attend the festival to blend in with the local festival goers.