Religious festivals in Bhutan are numerous and the sacred and the best known are called the TSECHU. The Tsechu festivals are held every year in the honour of Guru Rimpoche, the “Precious Teacher” commemorating one of his great deeds. ,“one who was born from a lotus”. This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan around 800 AD. He is the founder of the Nyingmapa, the “old school” of Lamaism which has a wide following today. The biography of Guru is highlighted by 12 episodes of the model of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s life. Each episode is commemorated around the year on the 10th day of the month by “the Tschechu”. The dates and the duration of the festivals vary from one district to another but they always take place on the 10th day of the month according to the Bhutanese calendar. During Tshechues, the dances are performed by monks as well as by laymen. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people, dressed in all their finery, come together to rejoice. The celebration of the festivals are marked with great respect and all the Bhutanese people gather and participate in the religious ceremonies which can carry on for several days ranging from three to five days. The festivals are filled with dances that are well defined in religious content.
Some of the Tsechus end with the display of a huge Thangkas painting called the “Thongdroel” like the Tsechus held in Paro, Punakha and Thimphu. It is believed that attending a Tsechu celebration one can obtain blessings and merits for better life and for life after death. It is also a yearly social gathering of people in their finest clothes and beautiful jewelleries. People from all over the districts near and far, some traveling by road and some on foot, will all gather to witness and participate in the festivity.
Besides dances, the crowed are utterly entertained by ATSARAS the “Clowns” whose expressive mask and postures are indispensable elements in any religious festival. They confront the monks, toss out salacious jokes and distract the crowd with their antics.