—-Content provided by Mr. Tashi from Yana Expeditions
At different time of the year, the annual festivals known as “Tshechus” take place in different parts of the country. Tshechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of the Saint Padmasambhava also known as “Guru Rinpoche,” in Bhutan. These great deeds are all believed to have taken place on the 10th day of the month which is the meaning of the word ‘Tshechu.’ Even though all Tshechus do not, in practice, take place on 10th days. All the districts, dzongs and a large number of villages in the east, have an annual Tshechu which attract people from various places.
Tshechus are celebrated for several days, between three to five days according to their location, and are the occasion for dances that are clearly defined in religious content. They can be performed by monks, laymen or gomchens and the repertory is same practically everywhere.
Certain Tshechus end with the worship of a huge applique thangka called “Throngdroel.” The Thongdroel is unveiled at first light to bring enlightenment to all who view it. Festival goers believe that by simply viewing this Thongdroel, they can be delivered from the cycle of reincarnations, which is the ultimate aim of Buddhism.
Some Tshechus also have Wang, a collection of verval blessing given by a high monk. Coloured threads called “Sungki” are distributed and people tie them around their neck as witness to the blessing. Sometimes the Wang is called “Mewang” literally means the “Blessing by fire” which burns away their impurities.
Atsaras are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are indispensible element in any religious festival, they confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their antics when the religious dances begin to grow tedious. Believed to represent Acharyas, religious masters of India, they are the only people permitted to mock religion in a society where sacred matters are treated with the highest respect. For a few days popular entertainers are allowed the freedom to express a formulaic challenge within an established framework that does not, however upset the social and religious order.
Some religious festivals include only a few dances and consist mostly of readings from particular text. On these occasions, village assembles in a temple and participate in the prayers while at the same time drink strong alcoholic beverages. Each village take pride in its annual religious festival, whether it includes dances or simply prayers, and any villager who has gone to live in city, are expected to come back home for it. He will then sponsor a large part of the festival.
For the Bhutanese, religious festivals offer an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain much merit. They are also occasions for seeing people, and for being seen, for social exchanges, and for flaunting success. People bring out their finest clothes, their most beautiful jewelleries, and go for picnic with abundant food, Men and women joke and flirt. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humour prevails.
Families reunite once a year in Bhutan at festival time. They come from all over the Kingdom to dance and rejoice in the year that has past and look forward to the coming harvest.