At different times of the year, the annual festivals known as “Tsechus” take place in different locations. These Tsechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche. Festivals are celebrated for several days averaging between three to five days and are the occasion for dances that are purely defined in religious content. The festivals in Bhutan have a reputation for being raucous, joyous affairs. The most popular for tourists are those held in Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang. They mark the busiest time of the year for the tourism industry. Air seats and hotel rooms are frequently difficult to come by.
The Dzongs come to life with colour, music and dancing as valley dwellers and towns folk dress in their finest clothes and join together to exorcise evil spirits and rejoice in a new harvest. Rare masked and sword dances and other rituals are performed in the Dzong’s courtyard and temples. Tourists are allowed into the Dzongs to watch the spectacle, but not the inner sanctuaries.
Thimphu and Paro festivals are the most popular for tourists as they are the most accessible. There are other regional Dromches and Tsechus around the year, taking place in different localities of the Kingdom, which are equally fascinating. The Tsechu at Bumthang is well known for taking place almost entirely during the evening and containing exciting fire dances. Most of the dances date back from beyond the middle ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elders dressed in bright costumes. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliqués or Throngdrels. Festival goers believe that simply by viewing this Thangkha, they can be delivered or liberated from the samsaric cycle of reincarnation which is the ultimate aim of all Buddhists.
For the Bhutanese people, religious festivals offer an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain much merit.