Festival Trip for Paro Tsechu Festival

 

Festivals:At various times throughout the year, annual festivals known as Tsechus take place around the country, but there are other festivals too. Tsechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of the Buddhist Saint, Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpochein our mountain kingdom. All of Guru Rinpoche’s great deeds are believed to have taken place on the 10th day of the month, which is the meaning of the word tsechu, and all tsechus do in fact take place/begin on 10th days. All the districts, Dzongs and a large number of villages in the east, hold annual Tsechus, which attract people from far and wide.

Tsechus are celebrated for several days (usually between three and five, depending on where taking place) 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 more or less the same everywhere.

Certain tsechus end with the veneration of a huge appliqu thangkha, called a “thongdroel”. The thongdroel is unveiled at dawn 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 birth and rebirth, which is the ultimate aim of Buddhism.

Some tsechus also have a “wang”, a collective verbal blessing given by a high lama. Colored threads are distributed, and people tie them around their necks as witness to the blessing. Sometimes the wang is called “mewang” meaning “blessing by fire” which burns away their impurities.

Atsaras are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are an indispensable 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 these 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 a particular text. On these occasions, villagers assemble in a temple and participate in the prayers while at the same time drinking strong alcoholic beverages. Each village takes pride in its annual religious festival, and any villagers who have gone to live in the city are expected to come back home for it. Such villagers will themselves sponsor a large part of the cost of mounting the festival.

For the Bhutanese, attendance at religious festivals offers an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and to gain much merit. The festivals 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 jewelry, and enjoy picnics with abundant alcohol and meat. Men and women joke and flirt with one another. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald good humor prevails.

Festival Etiquette:Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival you are, in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The conduct of the onlooker should be governed with this in mind. The dancers, whether monks or laymen, are in a state of meditation. They transform themselves into the deities which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.

With this in mind, it should be clear that obtrusive, disrespectful or discourteous behavior is out of place. The dance ground is not a place to eat, drink or smoke, talk or laugh loudly at inappropriate times, flash cameras or intrude on the dance space. Common courtesy should rule one’s action when photographing dances or onlookers.

Bhutan Festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are not held as tourist attractions. They are genuine manifestations of religious traditions thousands of years old which outsiders are given the privilege of witnessing. We would like to see that privilege retained, without in any way impairing or infringing on the beauty and sacredness of the ritual.

Please bear in mind that some past actions of unthinking visitors have caused shock and dismay to the local people. Any recurrence of such unfortunate events may lead to future restrictions on attendance at festivals. We hope that our tour members will always display courtesy, sensitivity and respect to the people of Bhutan who have welcomed them to attend these beautiful and sacred events, and will visibly demonstrate their respect by dressing as well as their circumstances permit on such occasions.

 

6 Night 7 Days Paro Tsechu Festival Tours, 2016 

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Paro Festival Schedule: March 19-23, 2016

Paro Tshechu (festival) is one of the biggest religious celebrations of the Bhutanese year. It has been held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of the state of Bhutan, and the Ponpo  Rigzin Nyingpo initiated the festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong (fortress) in 1644. The 5 day festival is observed in three parts-prefestival rituals a day before the festival, ceremonies are undertaken on the first day inside the Paro Dzong, and the main festivities on the festival ground on the remaining 4 days.

Main Highlights of Paro Festival

  • Paro Tshechu (festival) is one of the most popular festivals in the country.
  • It offers the best opportunity to witness the Bhutanese’s rich culture, history and religion that distinguish the people and country distinctly from rest of the countries.
  • Bring you a closer contact with the people and give you an insight into the Bhutanese lives, beliefs and more.
  • During Tshechu 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 come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery.

 

DETAILED ITINERARIES FOR PARO TSECHU FESTIVAL, 2016 

Day 1 (20th March, 2016)  Arrive ParoYour flight to Paro in Bhutan. After checking into your hotel you have time to relax and have lunch before beginning your discovery of Bhutan.  Your first visit is to Paro Dzong. Located above the river the temple is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture. Driving up through the Paro Valley you come to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong.  It was from here that the Bhutanese repelled Tibetan armies in the 17th C. Before returning to Paro you visit Kichu Temple, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th C by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo.Overnight  in Paro
Day 2 (21st March, 2016) Paro Tshechu (3rd Day of the Tshechu)Today you experience the colour, excitement and spectacle of the Paro Tshechu Festival. It is the most divine and deeply symbolic of all the Buddhist festivals celebrated in Bhutan. Dressed in traditional finery, devotees flock to the Paro Dzong to proclaim their faith and receive blessings. Monks and lay people, dressed in elaborate silk brocade costumes perform festive dances of good triumphing over evil to the haunting sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. The dances and costumes have survived unchanged for thousands of years, each dance is an exact re-enactment of visions seen by Bhutan’s great Buddhist saints and any changes would be seen as sacrilege. Many dances will be performed today including: Lords of the Cremation Grounds. Terrifying Deities, Heroes, Novel Man and Ladies Lencham , Stag and Hounds.The dances are interspersed with folk songs and clowning aided by copious amounts of butter tea and a locally produced potent alcoholic barley spirit.

 

Day 3 (22nd March, 2016) A day  hike to Taktsang Goempa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) in ParoAfter breakfast,you will hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria.Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months.The principal Lhakhang (monastery) of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. Taktsang was damaged severely by fire in 1998 but has now been fully restored to its former beauty.After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point. Then drive back to hotel and relax.Overnight in Paro. 
Day 4 (23rd March,2016) Paro Tshechu and Paro-Thimphu ( 54 km, 1 hr)Following an early breakfast, you make your way to the early morning blessing from Thangka of Guru Rhinpoche. Today is the most auspicious day of the festivities and dances of the Heroes, Ging and Tsholing, the Eight Manifestatons, the Sixteen Fairies and the Religious Song are all performed in a magnificent cacophony of sound and color. During the day you visit the National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower).Here is an intriguing collection of artefacts which provide you with a wonderful insight to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom of Bhutan. In the evening you will travel to Thimphu, the next destination on your tour in Bhutan.Overnight in Thimphu 
Day 5 (24th March, 2016) Thimphu Sightseeing Thimphu, lying in the lap of Northern Himalaya has been inhabited since the 13th C but it did not really begin to be fully established until 1961 when it was pronounced the capital of Bhutan. It was only in 1962 that the first vehicles entered the city and now, although a bright modern city, it has the accolade of being the only capital city in the world without traffic lights!Today you visit; the Centenary Farmer’s Market, a wonderful opportunity to interact with local people; Zilukha Nunnery, which still houses over 70 nuns, the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of King Jigme Dorji Wngchuck and Tashichoe Dzong, constructed in 1641 and housing a magnificent throne room. From here you drive to Keuselphodrang to see the Bhutan’s largest Buddha statue perched on a hill overlooking the city.Overnight in Thimphu 
 Day 6 (25th March, 2016)  Thimphu Sightseeing -ParoToday, after breakfast, you continue to explore Thimphu and the surrounding area starting with The National Textile Museum, an excellent place to see traditional arts and crafts being perpetuated. You also visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, where medicinal herbs are compounded and dispensed and where traditional practitioners are trained.Visits are planned to the outdoor National Folk Heritage Museum, displaying rural life in Bhutan, the Chengzamtok Weaving Centre to observe beautiful colourful silk and cotton textiles being woven into shawls, scarves and traditional Bhutanese dresses and a Bhutanese paper factory to see the handmade traditional craft of paper-making. Good quality traditional paper is held in very high esteem in Bhutan.In the late afternoon drive to Paro and overnight in Paro

 

Day 7 (26th March, 2016)  Bhutan Retreat (your local Bhutan travel agent) will see you off at the Paro Airport for your onward destinations to Bangkok