Punakha Tsechu

Annual festivals featuring dances depicting the life of Guru Rimpoche at most Dzongs and monasteries. The twelve part dance dramas occur on the tenth day of the month in the Bhutanese calender. Monks and lay people perform the dances established by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Pema Lingpa, and Guru Rinpoche. The dancers playing wrathful and compassionate beings, heroes, demons and animals. Known as cham these dances bring blessings, dharma teachings, protect from misfortune, and exorcise evil. The Teschu is a religious festival and brings merit to those who attend. It is also a major social event and attendees wear their best clothes and jewelry.

Dancers wear elaborate masks and costumes and astaras (clowns) often wear masks with long red noses. The astaras entertain the crowds and collect donations for the monks and monasteries. During the intervals elegantly dressed woman sing and dance. Many Tsechus feature large Thankas (religious pictures) called Thondrol which are unfurled just before dawn. Thondrol means ‘liberation by seeing’ and by seeing the Thanka one’s sins are washed away. The crowds chant prayers when the Thanka is rolled up. The Tsechu lasts for four days and the order of the dances varies according to local tradition.

Some Tsechus have small fairs featuring gambling and fortunes tellers with Tashi-go-mang, miniature temples with divinities hidden behind doors.