The Tshechu (Annual Festival)
The Tshechu is a festival honoring Guru Padma Sambhava, “one who was born from a lotus flower.” This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tartaric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan etc. around 800 AD. He is the founder of the Nyingmapa, the “old school” of Lamaism which still has numerous followers. The biography of Guru is highlighted by 12 episodes of the model of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s life. Each episode is commemorated around the year on the 10th day of the month by “the Tshechu“. The dates and the duration of the festivals vary from one district to another but they always take place on or around the 10th day of the month according to the Bhutanese calendar. During Tshechu, the dances are performed by monks as well as by laymen. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people, dressed in all their finery, come together to rejoice. Detailed explanation on the meaning of each dance performed during the Tshechu will be provided to guests by our tour guides.
Bhutan Festival Itineraries
Festival Dance schedule:
1) Shacham Dance of the 4 stags (Costume: the stags wear knee-length skirts and masks of stags) The stag dance portrays the subjugation of the evil Wind King by Guru Rimpoche.
2) Peling Ging Sum: Dance of the Three Kings of Ging (Costume: The Gings wear knee-length skirts. The first part of this dance is performed with sticks and animal masks; the second with swords and fierce masks) this mask dance symbolizes victory of good over evil. The great “Treasure Discoverer” Pema Lingpa in Zandopelri, is believed to have seen the dance of the Three Kings of Ging – all emanations of Guru Rimpoche.
3) Pacham: Dance of the Heroes (Costume: Knee-length yellow skirts and golden crowns. No mask. They hold small bells and drums. This dance portrays the act of leading believers of the human world into the presence of Guru Rimpoche.
4) Shawo Shachi: Dance of the Stag and the Hounds (Costume: dog mask, stag mask and knee-length yellow skirts). The dance portrays compassion over all sentient beings as the great sage, Jetseon Milarepa, brings harmony between the stag, (the prey) and a dog, (the predator).
5) Dramyan Cham: Dance of the Guitar (Costume: Elaborate and heavy woolen clothes with traditional felt boots, long black skirt, yellow shirt, brown coat, sword and a circular head dress. One dancer is holding a traditional guitar called Dramyen.
1) Zshana: Dance of the 21 Black Hats. (Costume: large black hat, felt boots, colourful brocade long dress. No masks The Black Hat Dancers represent yogis who have the power to take and recreate life.
2) Zshana Nga Cham: Dance of the 21 Black Hats with drums This is a victory dance following the destruction of the evil.
3) Kyecham: Dance of the Attendants (Costume: Knee-length yellow skirts, animal masks, sword in the right hand) The dance portrays King Norzang and his armed companions during a holy war.
4) Phole Mole: Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies This drama is based on the folktale of King Norzang.
5) Dramitse Ngacham: Dance of the 16 Drum-Beaters from Dramitse. (Costume: Knee-length yellow skirts, different animal masks and drums) This illustrates a vision seen by 15th by nun Chorten Zangmo in the 15th century in which she saw the attendants of Guru Rimpoche performing a dance.
6) Shao Shachi: Dance of the Stag and the Hound (see day one, No.4)
1) Durdag: Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Costume: white short skirts, white boots, white skull masks. This dance portrays how the lords (protectors) of the cremation grounds subjugated the assembly of demonic powers who have violated their oath of not harming the tartaric doctrine.
2) Tungam: Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Costume: Beautiful brocade dresses, boots and terrifying masks.) The dance demonstrates the passage of men and the demi-gods who become enemies of Buddhism. To overcome these evil powers, Guru Rimpoche takes the form of “Fierce Thunderbolt”. He then wages war against the evil forces and liberates men into a superior sphere of bliss.
3) Raksha Mangcham: Dance of the Raksha and the Judgement of the Dead. It’s a dance of the Rakshas who are the helpers of the Lord of Death “Shinje.” The dance dramatises souls of beings led to judgement before “Shinje”.
1) Bumthang Ter Cham: A folk dance of Bumthang Tamshing (Costume: white masks, knee-length yellow skirts, a little bell and drum in hand.)
2) Durdag: Dance of the Lords of Cremation Grounds
3) Ging Dang Tsholing: The Dance of Ging and Tsholing (Costume: The Tsholing wear long colourful dresses and terrifying masks. The Ging wear a replica of a tiger skins, attractive animal masks with a flag on top and carry drums. This dance depicts the paradise of Ugyen Rimpoche, i.e. the Zangtoepelri from where all the incarnations of Ugyen Rimpoche, essence of all the Buddhas, are sent to the Three Worlds.
4) Guru Tshen Gye: Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru. It is believed that during the performance of this particular dance, Ugyen Rimpoche manifests Himself, and the onlookers at the dance receive the blessings of Ugyen Rimpoche’s mind, speech and body.
5) Rigma Chudrug: Dance of the Sixteen Fairies The sixteen fairies are emanations of the same person. They are Goddesses of offerings who are divided into four categories. Each category is again divided into four, totaling 16. The dance is performed to bring total happiness for the people who believe in the manifestations of Ugyen Rimpoche.