Thimphu Tschechu 2017 - A Visual Feast

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Tschechu, meaning ‘tenth day’ also corresponds to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). This festival is a tribute to the famous Yogi who introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas.

Held from 30 Sept to 2 Oct 2017, the Thimphu Tschechu (festival) was a vibrant visual feast for both locals and foreigners. It is a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of a certain month of the Bhutanese Buddhist calendar annually. The exact month of the Tschechu differs from dzongkhag (district) to dzongkhag and from lhakhang (temple) to llakhang.

Tschechu, meaning ‘tenth day’ also corresponds to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). This festival is a tribute to the famous Yogi who introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas.

Instituted by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867, the Thimphu Tshechu is arguably one of the best and the second largest in all of Bhutan. This unique and colourful display of Bhutanese culture is also a major tourist attraction, luring visitors from all four corners of the globe to witness this extraordinary event.

Prior to the actual three-day celebrations, the Tschechu was preceded by days and nights of prayers and rituals to invoke the gods. With tschechus taking place as early as the 8th century B.C., many ancient elements have been transmitted through the generations.

Held in the Tendrel Thang (courtyard) of the Tashichhodzong, the Thimphu Tschechu enticed Bhutanese from all walks of life to celebrate and mingle with tourists.

Especially for Bhutanese hailing from isolated communities from far flung dzongkhags, and particulary for farmers, the tschechu is regarded as a break from rural life. Donned in their finest attire, the villagers came prepared with their bamboo picnic baskets filled with food to last the day.

Besides partaking in the exciting festivities, many Bhutanese came to pray for health and happiness.

The highlight of the Thimphu Tshechu is the cham or religious mask dance performed by monks clad in flamboyant costumes. The Bhutanese believe that by attending a cham, they will wash away their sins and receive blessings.

Each cham is unique and has an interesting story behind it stretching back as early as the 8th century. With the aim of imparting moral values, scenes from the life of Guru Rimpoche, the founder of cham dancing were also re-enacted.

Some of the most appealing and exotic dances include the ‘Dance of the terrifying Gods’, the ‘Dance of the twenty-one black hats’ and the ‘Dance of the lords of cremation’. Moreover, other forms of captivating Bhutanese dances were also performed, with much fanfare.

In addition, ‘Atsaras’ or clown-like jokers and dances were also performed in the Thimphu Tschechu to ward off any evil spirits which might be lurking around.

The three days of lively festivities culminate in the unfurling of the sacred Thongdrel of Guru Rimpoche, which is a gigantic sacred cloth with intricately woven portrayals of the Yogi himself and other Buddhist imageries.

It is believed that one’s sins will be cleansed by witnessing the unveiling of the Thongdrel with many turning up at dawn to receive blessings.

Written by Zann Huizhen Huang for the Daily Bhutan.


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