Paro Tshechu is one of the most famous festivals in Bhutan. The term ‘Tshechu’ literally means the 10th day. Paro is a historical town located in the Paro district of Bhutan.
“Tshechu’ are religious Bhutanese festivals that are celebrated annually in each district of Bhutan on or around the 10th day of each month according to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar.
Each district has a specific month for the festival. These annual festivals have actually been carried on since the 17th century right from the Drukpa lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Paro Tshechu is one of the biggest ‘Tshechu’ festivals in terms of magnitude of participation and audience and occurs on the second month of the Bhutanese Lunar calendar. It involves large social gatherings which facilitate social bonding between the people of different villages and is one of the best ways for tourists to experience Tibetan culture and traditions.
The venue of the fair has a lot of sellers thus leading to brisk commerce taking place. This festival is usually held in a ‘dzong’ or fortress or in a local monastery in honor of Guru Rimpoche who had brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century.
It is believed by the people of Bhutan that by attending this festival, one can seek merit and forgiveness for his sins. Paro Tshechu is a five day festival and attracts tourists from all over the world. The 2019 dates for this festival is 17th to 21th March.
Traditions And Celebrations
The main attention grabber of the festival is the ‘Cham’ dances. These dances are performed in masks and colorful costumes by the monks and laymen comprising of the Clowns or ‘Atsaras’ who entertain the audience with their funny acts. It is said that it’s very crucial to know the name and the historical significance of the dances.
These dances typical spread moral messages through the storytelling or are based on the life history of the 9th century teacher Padmasambhava and more saints. People dress up in their finest clothes and jewelry on this day. A highlighting feature of the Paro Tshechu is the unfurling of a giant silk applique ‘thangka’ which is called the “Guru Throngdel” and is considered to be one of the most sacred things in the whole of Bhutan.
It is unfurled only for a few hours before dawn and rolled down before morning on the final day of the festival. The term ‘Throngdel’ means ‘liberation by the mere sight of it’ in Bhutanese and it’s so large it covers the face of a building or ‘dzong’ completely. It’s actually a holy scroll that depicts a pictorial scene of Padmasambhava seated amidst other holy saints. This religious scroll is believed to be so sacred that the mere sight of it is said to clean the viewer of all his sins.