One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu. This festival is held in the capital city for three days. The Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people, both local and tourists. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.

It is believed that Guru Rimpoche healed a king called Sindhu Raja by performing eight forms of dances representing eight manifestations of Padmasambhava in the Bumthang valley to restore the health of the king. These became the Chham dances depicting the grandeur of Padmasambhava which are now performed by monks and laymen. Tshechus are now performed as a tribute to Guru Rimpoche, one of the great the Buddhist master who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.

Day 1:

Shawo Shachi, Dance of the Stag and the Hounds is a biographic drama inspired by the legacy of an eleventh-century Tibetan yogi Jetsun Milarepa. The dance illustrates the encounter of the saint and a hunter Gonpo Dorje who was converted to a compassionate Buddhist by the wise and compassionate saint.

The dance is presented as the hunter Gonpo Dorje and his hunting hounds chase after a terrified stag where they encounter the meditating saint and the saint sings songs of compassion and realization which calms the stag and the hound and they submit to Milarepa’s feet which infuriates the hunter even more and shoots his arrows at the saint, to his bewilderment the arrows snap three times. The compassionate saint sings his song of realization and the hunter moved submits himself at the feet of Milarepa. This dance demonstrates compassion and forgiveness which are an important aspect of Buddhist beliefs.

Day 2:

The Durdag chham, the dance of the lords of the cemetery is performed by 4 dancers wearing white skeletal costume and skull mask. The Chham is illustrated by these 4 dancers marching into the courtyard with thunderbolt steps to summon all negative forces. Dancers bend backward touching the ground by the tip of their masks as an act of summoning the deities of the earth to witness their act of faith. This dance is performed as a reminder of impermanence.

Day 3:

The Bardo Raksha Mangcham, the dance of Judgment of the dead is a representation of the judgment day after a person dies. It is believed that the departed consciousness of the deceased wanders for 7 weeks. During that intermediary state, the deceased is presented before the Lord of Death where the Black Demon and the White God reports the bad and good deeds of the deceased to the Lord of the Death for verdict. After an unrelenting debate, the Lord of Death passes the verdict. The sinner is dragged to hell and the spiritual is escorted by Dakinis for a favorable rebirth.

The Dance of Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava is a biographical dance which represents 8 forms of Guru Padmasambhava where 6 are peaceful and 2 are wrathful forms.
The three-day Tsechu concludes with the unfurling of appliqué Thongdrol of Guru Rinpoche. Thongdrol means liberation at sight.

This year the Norzin Lam will be closed for vehicles during the Thimphu Tshechu and a Street Festival will take place on the Norzin Lam street from 1 pm – 5 pm. The street festival will display art, dance, live music, aerobics, health checkups and organic food and products. The festival has been initiated by the Mayor’s Office in collaboration with VAST Bhutan, Gokab, Radio Valley 99.9 FM, Mojo Park and others. After 5 pm, cultural shows and concerts will be performed at The Clock Tower Square.

Start Date: 2019-10-07

End Date: 2019-10-09

Venue: Tashi Chhodzong

Dzongkhag: Thimphu