On our Day 4 in Bhutan, we were once again treated to another colorful religious festival. Like the festival we attended in Thimphu, this one was also not part of our planned itinerary. It happened that the 3-day Tsechu festival was starting as we were passing by the town of Wangdue on our way from the valley of Punakha to the high mountains of Trongsa.
A Tsechu Festival is an annual celebration to commemorate the good deeds of Guru Rinpoche, Bhutan’s patron saint who is credited for spreading the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism in the Himalayan region.
Tsechu festivals are held every autumn in every district of Bhutan. The dates of the celebration vary from district to district and year to year. The festivals are normally held in Dzongs (fortresses), monasteries or temples. However, the celebration in Wangdue this year was held in a military camp because its fortress burned down in 2012.
Attending this religious festival is an important part of the spritual devotion for the Bhutanese. They believe that their attendance would bring them blessings and help them accumulate spiritual merits.
The core of the Tsechu festival are the performances of ancient religious mask dances that are mostly performed by monks. The dances re-enact the legendary events that took place during the life of Guru Riponche.
We were able to witness only about four mask dances in this festival as we had to leave early to continue our long journey to Trongsa. However, we were thankful for the opportunity to witness another important Bhutanese tradition.
Few days later, we attended the Tsechu Festival in Bumthang Valley (the one that was part of our itinerary) where we were able to witness the mask dances all day long. We will share more photos of the amazing and vibrant mask dances from that festival in our future post.