Start Date: April 4th, 2020

End Date: April 8th, 2020

Destination:Paro CityElevation : 2280m

Venue: Rinpung Dzong, Paro Valley


Understanding the meaning of aTshechu

History of Tshechus (Festivals):

Guru Padmasambhava, the great lotus born saint and philosopher who did actually foresee several unbelievable things.., a bit of a modern day Nostradamus but with an entirely different and unique religious twist, came to Tibet and Bhutan in the 7th century from the Swat valley of present day Pakistan.

Upon his arrival to Bhutan, in the Bumthang valley, he converted all the opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer the local deities who practiced the shamanic Bon tradition that was prevalent in the country at those times. He arrived in Bhutan at Bumthang to aid the dying King Sindhu Raja whose soul was rendered into “pause mode” by the chief local deity of Bumthang valley.

Guru Padmasambhava, later proclaimed as “Guru Rinpoche” performed a series of dances in the fields in front of the Kurjey Lhakhang at the Bumthang Valley to restore the health of the King before subjugating the chief deity of the whole of Bumthang, Shelging Karpo. Guru Rinpoche in the process organized the First Tshechu in Bumthang, in the 8th century where the eight manifestations of the Padmasambhava were presented through eight forms of dances.

These later became the Cham dances (Masked Dances) of today’s Tshechu Festivals depicting the glory of Guru Rinpoche as he is known in Bhutanese history and tradition today. The grateful King after having himself converted to Buddhism and gaining his heart, mind and soul, then helped Guru Rinpoche spread the Buddha Dharma in Bhutan.

Literally, Tshechu means “Tshe”= Day/Date and “Chu” = 10 of any particular month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar. The month is different for different places but is always “Day 10” of a particular Bhutanese/Tibetan lunar month. Paro Tshechu is held for 5 days beginning on the 10th Day of 2nd Bhutanese lunar month and ends on the 14th day.

The last day of Paro Festival:

The Paro Tshechu is one of the biggest Buddhist Festival draws in Bhutan. On the first day, all mask dances are held in the courtyard inside the Rinpung Dzong at Paro and in the subsequent days, the events of the festival are held in the outer courtyard outside the Dzong.

The last day of the five-day festival also includes the unfurling of the giant Thongdrel, a very large scroll painting or thangka, which is done with intense religious fervor, at the very early hours of the morning before sunrise. This painting measuring 30 m (98 ft) × 45 m (148 ft) has the images of Guru Rinpoche at the center flanked by his two principal consorts and also his eight manifestations.

Devotees who gather to witness this occasion offer obeisance in front of the Thongdrel to seek blessings. A mere sight of the Thongdrel is believed to cleanse all sins accumulated in one’s lifetime. “Deliverance from hell by the sight of it or attainment of Nirvana by the sight of it” are a couple of phrases used to describe a Thongdrel.

Folk dances are also performed on the occasion. Late birds will sure miss it. The painting is then rolled up before sunrise and securely kept inside the Dzong before being displayed again on the same exact date one year later.

Origin of Paro Tshechu

In 2020, the Paro Tshechu will be held from April 4th to 8th. This festival has been held annually ever since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal – the founder and unifier of Bhutan as a nation state, and Ponpo Rinzin Nyingpo initiated the Paro Tshechu Festival together with the consecration of the Paro Dzong (Rinpung Dzong) in 1644.

The festival is observed in three parts : The pre festival rituals on the first day, The ceremonies are undertaken in the second day inside the Paro Dzong and The main festivities on the festival grounds on the remaining three days.

The main Mask Dances performed

Mask Dances

Mask Dances

During the course of the Tshechu the performances cover: Dance of the Four Stags; Dance of the Three kinds of Ging; Dance of the Heroes, Dance of the Stags and Hounds and Dance with Guitar, Dance of the 21 Black Hats with drums ,Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies Dance of the Drums from Drametse and Dance of the Stag and Hounds, Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds ,Dance of the Terrifying Deities and Dance of the Judgement of the Dead etc.

  • On the last day of the festival, the dances performed cover: Dance of the Ging and Tsoling and Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava.
Tourist arrivals by popular festivals

Tourist arrivals by popular festivals

Courtesy: Tourism Council of Bhutan ( figures for 2017)

2016 : 415 (due to some unexpected events)

2015 : 270 (due to some unexpected events)

2014 : 4,790

2013 : 3,471

2012 : 4,580

A few tips to remember for Paro Tshechu 2020

  • You are advised to plan the trip quite well in advance. Though last minute adjustments can be made, almost everyone wants to visit at the same time. Almost all the hotels and Druk Air tickets will be booked out. Please remember Druk Air planes are not the usual jumbo jets, the reason being because of the mountainous terrain and flights have a capacity of only 118 seats (16 in the executive class and 102 in economy). So the travel operator needs ample time to make the bookings in time.
  • You can plan to visit a few places like Thimphu and Punakha and the Taktsang Monastery, the National Museum and the ramparts of the Drugyal Dzong before the Tshechu. A customized itinerary can be sent to you and then you can plan your trip accordingly.
  • You can also plan a trip to the chilly Chelela Pass (4000m) between the Paro and Haa valleys, which is also the highest motorable pass in Bhutan.

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