Festivals of Bhutan

Jambay Lhakhang Drub Festival

The Festivals of Bhutan are magical events that are visually striking and vibrant. There are broadly two types of festivals in Bhutan. One is a spiritually marked festival like Thimphu Festival, Jambay Lhakhang Drup, Paro Festival, Talo Festival and Ura Yakchoe Festival. And the other is theme-based  festivals like Black Necked Crane Festival Bhutan, Dochula Festival,  Rhododendron Festival or Royal Highland Festival.

Be it theme based or spiritually significant festival, all festivals in Bhutan  are marked by colorful dances and cultural extravagant treats. It’s a good display of spiritual richness and a great opportunity to immerse into the relaxed togetherness . Moreover, Bhutan Holidays and festivals are  an incomparable experience and blessing. The main highlight of the festivals is the sacred masked dances called Chams. The Chams or the sacred masked dances have a specific purpose and profound meaning. They are not just dramas created for entertainment.  Furthermore, many sacred dances have been introduced through the visions and meditative state of enlightenment masters. They are brought back to life again through the rich symbolism of ritual costumes and sacred movements.

Bhutan Festival Mask Dance
Bhutan Festival

We have listed down the top 10 Festival of Bhutan

1. Thimphu Festival: One of the Biggest Festivals of Bhutan

Thimphu Tshechu
Thimphu Tshechu

Unlike other Tshechus, the Thimphu Festival occurs in two parts: The Thimphu Lhamoi Dromche and the Thimphu Tshechu. The Thimphu Lhamoi Dromche festival takes place few days prior to the Thimphu Tshechu. Thimphu Lhamoi Dromche is performed in the open courtyard inside the Thimphu Dzong while the Thimphu Tshechu is performed outside of the Dzong to the North.

a) Thimphu Lhamoi Dromche
Bhutan Festival
Include Thimphu Tshechu 2022 in your Bhutan Itinerary

The Thimphu Lhamoi Dromche (Drubchen) is dedicated to Palden Lhamo, the female protecting deity of Bhutan. The public performance takes place in the courtyard inside Thimphu Dzong. “The Lhamoi Drubchen” means “The great achieving prayer of the female deity.”

These dances are performed by monks who wear long brocade silk costumes with long sleeves. The dancers honor her and invoke blessing for protection against disasters or undesirable events .Concurrently seeks to maintain peace and prosperity throughout the country.

b) Thimphu Tshechu

The Thimphu Tshechu festival is one of the biggest festivals in Bhutan- in terms of participation and audience. The Thimphu Tshechu festival begins on the 10th day and ends on the 12th day of the 8th Bhutanese month. Thousands of people gather to witness the Tshechu. For the Bhutanese it is an ideal time to meet with others, wear their finest attire, and receive blessings from  the sacred dances.

Thimphu Tshechu
Thimphu Tshechu

The Thimphu Tsechu festival is a series of sacred events choreographed to promote happiness yet with the intention to ultimately cultivate an enlightened mind in the attendees.

Thimphu Tshechu 2022 : 5th – 7th Oct 2022

Check out Thimphu Tshechu Festival Tour Itinerary and Cost.

2. Paro Tshechu : Enjoy Grand Bhutan Festival in Spring

Paro Festival
Paro Festival

The Paro Tshechu Festival is one of the biggest and colorful festivals in the Kingdom. The Paro Tshechu draws a huge crowd who gather to witness the sacred mask dances and get blessed. The celebration showcases the beautiful ancient cultural heritage and tradition of Bhutan. The locals are gather decked up in their finest attire and spend time with families. Being a part of the festival is a great way to experience the local culture first-hand. Paro Tshechu ends with a display of a large thangka called the Thongdrel.

Paro Tshechu Date as per Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022: 12th to 16th April

Check out Paro Tshechu Tour Itinerary and cost

3. Jambay Lhakhang Festival : The Culturally Rich Bhutan Festival

The Jambay Lhakhang Drub is one of the most unique festivals of Bhutan. “Jambay Lhakhang Drub” literally means “Consecration of Jambay Temple”.  Unlike other sacred sites, this temple holds an annual consecration festival (Drub). This has started in the 7th century since the temple’s construction. This is unusual because generally, consecration takes place only once . However, Jampel Lhakhang is consecrated every year with festivity.

Jambay Lhakhang Festival
Jambay Lhakhang Festival

The Jambay Lhakhang Drub Festival has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction due to the two unique portions of the program- the Fire Offering and Naked Dance. Both Fire Offering (Mewang) and Naked Dance take place on the night of the full moon day of the 9th Bhutanese lunar month. It generally falls between late October and early November in the Gregorian calendar. The locals believe that if they successfully pass through the Fire Offering- in the form of an arch then all their obstacle will be removed. And on top of this if they witness the Naked Dance, additional purification or removal of obstacles will be accomplished.

Jambay Lhakhang Drub

Origination of the Naked Dance at Jambay Lhakhang Festival

There are two legends about how the Naked Dance came into existence.

The first postulates says that King Songtsen Gampo introduced it at the time of Jambay Lhakhang construction. This was done so as to drive the evil spirits who  opposed the construction of the shrine . He  disguised himself as numerous children and adults dancing unclothed This distracted the spirits  and they were able to complete the building.

The second postulate infers that Terton Dorje Lingpa experienced a vision of the Naked Dance.

Regardless of the origins, the Naked dance has become a unique part of the festival activities. The nudity of the dancers intents to cut through the attachment and ignorance of the spectators, and help them to realize the true nature of reality . The dance represents naked and primordial awareness, which naturally abides within the unfettered mind.

Other Sacred Cham Dances

Naked Dance
The Black hat dance

Besides the Mewang Fire Offering and Naked Dance, there are series of programs that take place during the Jambay Lhakhang Drub Festival. Starting with the “Tenzhu Jinseg” on the first day which means“Receiving the blessing of the Relics and Jinseg Fire Offering.” Following the Jinseg fire-offering is the festival begins with the Black Hat Dance, which is the same as that performed in other Tsechus and festivals of Bhutan. Gomazhi dance-performed by four dancers, Tre Ging, Tshog Cham, Dance of Nyulema, etc, and other cultural dances.

People circumambulate the temple throughout the day and well past midnight even in the latest hours of performance.

Jambay Lhakhang Festival Date 2022: 8th -12th Nov, 2022

Check out Jambay Lhakhang Festival Tour Package and Cost

4. Black Necked Crane Festival in Bhutan

Black Necked Crane Festival
Black Necked Crane Festival at Gangtey Bhutan

The beautiful Gangtey Valley is the roosting ground for the endangered black-necked crane that migrate from Tibet during winters.  The Black Necked Crane Festival  is celebrated in this valley. Black Necked Crane Festival is an event to mark the coming of a giant majestic bird which itself is a blessing to watch. It is interesting to observe that these birds, like humans, circumambulate Gangtey Goenpa on arrival and do the same on its departure. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), together with the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC) will organize the Black-Necked Crane festival at the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa.

Festival Event

The festival is held on the 11th of November every year coinciding with His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s birthday. 

The serene courtyard of the Gangtey Goenpa will be abuzz with lots of colorful and theme-based activities. Many villagers come to witness the festival in the best of their attire. Moreover, Black Necked Crane Festival is also the time when family members come together and celebrate the event in oneness.

Moreover, the event is also a method to educate the locals about the need for conservation of the environment and the cranes. Hence, the festival involves the community as an integral part of the festival.

The villagers, the monastic body, the school-going children all come together to take part in the Black Necked Crane festival. They present a variety of cultural performances including traditional masks and folk dances and beautifully choreographed crane dances. All these keep the large congregation of spectators alive throughout the festival duration. To know more contact us.

Black Necked Crane Festival 2022: 11th Nov, 2022

Check out Black Necked Crane Festival Tour Package and Cost

5. Druk Wangyel Tshechu : Bhutan Festival on Mountain Top

Dochula Tshechu
Dochula Tshechu

People usually call Druk Wangyel Tshechu  also as Dochula Festival. The venue of the Festival is at Dochula Pass, one of the highest motor able passes in Bhutan. You got to take a drive of  25Km from Thimphu Valley to reach Dochula Pass.The beauty of the festival is watching the dance on the hilltop with the backdrop of the giant Eastern Himalayas.

 The festival takes place in winter, to be specific on the 13th of December.  And in winter the temperature at Dochula drops down to below zer0 degrees. However, the beauty of Dochula Pass , the golden peaked mountain and colorful mask dancers make it all worth. 

The other interesting fact about the festival is, unlike any other festival in Bhutan, this festival is performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or laymen. It marks the effort of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the Sovereignty of the country.

 

Festival Date as per Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022: 13th Dec 2022

6. Ura Yakchoe Festival 

Ura Yakchoe Festival has become an elaborate event and is held in the beautiful valley of Ura, Bumthang. It begins on the 12th day of the third Bhutanese month with a procession from Gaden to Ura. The procession trails through open fields, meadows, and brooks thereby providing the magnificent backdrop to the event. If you like you can join the lively procession.

ura Festival
ura Festival

Having arrived in Ura, the priests perform their dance test which begins with the ritual of exorcism. The religious ritual continues for several days in early mornings or late evenings, while several other sacred mask dances alternated by folk dances occupy most of the daytime. The festival ends on the fifth day with the tour of the relic through the village.

The Ura Yakchoe festival is a lively affair. As the symphony of monastic music heralds the first mask dance, crowds of shy villagers in their best clothes fill the temple ground. 

So check out Ura Yakchoe Festival to see an exemplary case of Bhutan’s struggle to balance tradition with modernity.

Tsechus are a great way to experience the local culture of Bhutan. If you are visiting Bhutan be sure to include one of the festivals in your tour.

Festival Date as per Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022: 13th – 17th May, 2022

7.  Haa Summer Festival of Nomads

Witnessing  Haa summer festival is an opportunity to immerse oneself into the age-old tradition and nomadic lifestyle of Bhutanese herders which has remained unchanged by time and uncorrupted by modernity. It usually takes place in mid of July.

This festival is full of activities ranging from local sports, traditional songs, and mask dances. You can also take part in traditional sports like archery, Khuru, and other games. You can take pictures with the highlanders, enjoy delicious Bhutanese Cuisine and join the dance with locals.

Festival Date as Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022:

9th -10th July, 2022

Check out Haa Summer Festival Tour Package and Cost

8. Rhododendron Festival : The Festival of Colors

Rhodidendron Festival
Rhodidendron Festival

Rhododendron festival has its own charm and beauty. The festival heralds the coming of spring . This is the time of the year when the rhododendron flowers are in full bloom, the weather is pleasant and the sky clear.

The venue for  Rhododendron festival is at Royal Botanical Park which was primarily set up as the first recreational park in the country. The Park is beautifully set with a natural lake, walking and biking trails, boating and camping facility. The Park also boasts for being the rich habitat for rare birds like Ward’s Tragon, Fire Tailed Myzorins, Satyr Tragopan .

The festival is lively and uplifting with a touch of an aesthetic appeal with colors. It features a walk through the forest of rhododendron, folk dances and cultural programmes . Furthermore, the festival also showcases  arts and crafts, local games, Bhutanese cuisine and many more. However the highlight of the festival is the exhibition of different species that are in full bloom in their natural habitat.

Rhododendron Festival Date as per Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022 : 15th -17th April, 2022

Check out Rhododendron Festival Tour Package

9. Talo Festival 

Witness the Talo Festival on a small hill top of Punakha valley . It begins from 8th day of Bhutanese Lunar Calendar which falls somewhere on April on Gregorian Bhutan Festival Calendar.

This  3 day Tsechu( festival) which is more than 200 years old includes beautiful mask dances and old sacred songs composed by Mind reincarnations of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. These sacred dances and songs are subtle. The gesture and costume element has deep meaning and significance. 

The villager performs the mask dance following their  old traditions and the skills .

Talo Festival Date as per Bhutan Festival Calendar 2022 : 9th -11th April, 2022

10. Royal Highland Festival : The Unique Festival of Nomads

Royal Highland
Royal Highland Festival

The tranquil and majestic highland of Laya celebrates the annual Royal Highland Festival at an altitude of 3,800 meters. The festival takes place on October-23 & 24 every year and brings together the highlanders of Bhutan to exchange and exhibit their yak farming skills. The Royal Highland Festival attracts thousands of visitors and tourists.

Significance of Cham or Mask Dances

To the uninitiated observer, the meaning, symbolism, and purpose of the dances can be quite mysterious. Whereas, to the initiated aspirants the blessings of the Cham dances will greatly nurture and enhance their spiritual growth. Sacred Cham dances are subtle, each gesture and costume element is saturated with meaning and significance. The body movements are gestures of tutelary deities through a form of dance yoga founded in Vajrayana Buddhism. The sacred dance must be seen as a mandala of the deity. Most of the sacred dances encompass the profound teaching of Vajrayana Buddhism.

The festival in Bhutan are grand cultural extravagant treat. So check out Bhutan Festival Calendar for 2021 and Bhutan Festival Calendar for 2022 so you can try to include at least one of the Bhutan Festivals in your Bhutan Tour.

Bhutan Festival Calendar Link: https://www.bhutaninbound.com/bhutan-festival-calendar

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