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In the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas, the colorful Paro Tschechu Festival celebrates Buddhist culture

The five-day long Paro Tshechu Buddhist festival is mainly held in the huge courtyards of the magnificent Dzongs/Fortresses of Bhutan paring colorful masks and traditional clothing with dance and folk songs.

  • 3 weeks ago
  • April 28, 2024
4 min read
Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from the centuries ago when Guru Padmasambhava was alive. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from the centuries ago when Guru Padmasambhava was alive.
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PARO, Kingdom of Bhutan ꟷ Touted as the world’s happiest country, the Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between Tibet and India in the Himalayas. It remains a bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism. The country, with its strong sense of culture and tradition, hosts myriad festivals. One such festival – the Paro Tschechu – is a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of the month in the lunar calendar. It corresponds to the birthday of Padmasambhava. Better known as Guru Rimpoche (Precious Guru), Padmasambhava is a Buddhist master viewed as a central figure in the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet.

The exact month of the Tshechu festival varies from place to place and temple to temple. The festival is celebrated to honour Padmasambava – one who was born from a Lotus flower. He is popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, the precious Teacher.

In Bhutan, people believe that Guru Rimpoche contributed to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan around 800 A.D. Tantric Buddhism refers to traditions focused on mystical practices on the path to enlightenment. This includes meditation, visualization, and mantra recitation.

In addition to the mask dances known as Tshechus, the festival includes colorful Bhutanese dances. The five-day event boasts various forms of entertainment. The people believe everyone must witness the Tschchus at least once in lifetime.

On the last day of the festival, early in the morning, the monks display a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting) of the Guru Throngdel inside the dzong/fortress. Thongdrols are an impressive examples of Buddhist art and leave the viewers mesmerized.

A stunning display of Buddhist culture enthralls international visitors

The Tsehchu is considered one of the major attractions of the country. People from neighboring cities and countries travel far and wide to participate in the festivities.

Thongdrol is also considered so sacred that simply seeing them is said to cleanse one’s sins. Many attend for this spiritual blessing.

Two of the most popular Tshechus in Bhutan are the Paro and Thimphu Tshechus. These attract significant audience participation. In monasteries the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages by monks and villagers.

In addition to locals, the festival attracts thousands of tourists each year. It provides ample opportunity to engage and socialize with people from myriad cultures.

All photos courtesy of Priyanka Chandani

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