Best Festivals in Bhutan
Bhutan has a sparse population, with just over 700,000 residents in the country, but Bhutanese wear great costumes during festivals. Even so, as a tourist destination, Bhutan will not be as crowded as other places during the festival.
There are many festivals in Bhutan throughout the year, which can be divided into three categories: traditional festivals, non-religious festivals and religious festivals. The most famous festivals are Winter Solstice, Bhutanese New Year, Monsoon Start Day, National Holidays, etc. In addition, there are various religious festivals in Bhutan. With the exception of the national holiday, the king's birthday and the king’s enthronement, most festivals in Bhutan are calculated according to the Bhutanese calendar. The dates of the annual festivals in Bhutan differ from the Gregorian calendar.
In Bhutan, there are many Buddhist festivals every year that follow the Tibetan calendar. In addition to the traditional Buddhist dance and mask dance performances, there are also traditional song and dance performances by people from all over Bhutan. This is an opportunity to understand Bhutanese life and take portraits.
Bhutanese have a very special way of celebrating festivals. At festivals, Bhutanese usually hold prayer ceremonies, religious dances and theatrical performances. Bhutanese people usually wear human and animal masks for religious dances and theatrical performances. The human and god masks focus on different expressions like heroes, demons and monsters to show their loyalty, meanness, greed, humor etc. The most common animal masks are deer, cows, sheep and birds.
1. Bhutan New Year
Between mid-January and mid-March, Bhutanese will paint houses, visit local temples, and hold traditional archery and darts competitions to celebrate the New Year. These activities are conducted according to Bhutan's lunar calendar and the customs vary from place to place, so they can be held at any time during this period.
Bhutan New Year
2. Paro Tshechu
If you've heard of Bhutan, you've probably heard of most distinctive and magnificent Buddhist festival in Bhutan - the Tshechu Festival. Tshechu literally means "the tenth day" in Bhutan. The Tshechu Festival is a celebration of Padmasambhava, which is held on the tenth day of the Tibetan Bhutan calendar in the dzong and famous temples. Dzong is a place where politics and religion are united and temples and government agencies are inside.
In April, this extremely popular festival first offers a four-day Cham dance performance (religious ceremonial dance). The Thondrel (religious painting) is only open on that day. The ceremony on the first day took place in the Paro Dzong, and subsequent activities were moved outside the Dzong. It can also take place in March of the Gregorian calendar.
Every spring, from the 11th to the 15th of the second month of the Bhutanese calendar (usually at the end of March or April), a five-day Paro Tshechu festival is held. This is one of the largest and most popular festivals in the country. If you are lucky, you can see the king!
3. Thimphu Tschechu
The spectacular monk dance at Tashi Chhodzong turned this four-day festival into a sea of people (more than 3,000 tourists attend each year). The event can take place in October. The dromchoe (commemorating Bhutan's defeat to foreign enemies in the 17th century) for the first three-day is usually only open to Bhutanese.
The Thimphu Tschechu Festival takes place every fall from the 11th to the 15th day of the 8th month of the Bhutanese calendar, usually in late September or early October. If you missed the Paro Tschechu Festival, please don't miss it.
So far, Paro Tschechu and Thimphu Tschechu are the most popular festivals in Bhutan. There are two main reasons for its popularity. First, they are located in western Bhutan, just an hour's drive from the airport. So, if you are planning a 4-day trip to attend these festivals, it is possible. If the festival is in Eastern Bhutan, you will need at least 10 days of travel time. Second, the Paro Tschechu and Thimphu Tschechu are held in the local spring and autumn respectively. These are the two most suitable times of the year to travel to Bhutan.
4. Punakha Drubchen und Tschechu
This unique festival is held in the Punakha Valley with a warm climate. Its climax is a grand performance of a 17th century battle with hundreds of warriors (pazaps) in costume on stage. Then there is a three-day Tschechu Festival, which is organized according to the Bhutanese calendar.
If you plan to travel during this period, you will need to make arrangements. These festivals are all Buddhist festivals. You can see traditional Bhutanese singing and dancing as well as various activities. It can be said that the scene is very lively.
Bhutanese believe that watching the masked sword dance is a process of blessing and enlightenment. If you are fortunate enough to witness the grand Buddha exhibition ceremony on the last day of the festival, you will have amassed immense merit. Therefore, every Bhutanese wants to take part in festival celebrations at least once in their life.
During the festivals in Bhutan, visitors must abide by the smoking cessation regulations in Bhutan while exercising courtesy. You can't make loud noises.