Festival For The Ages
Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Oct 06, 2013
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Trongsa, the sacred and the temporal heart of the country, is another vertigo challenging mountain drive from Panaka
We had intentionally scheduled our trip to Bhutan around one of the most important festivals of the year. Festivals or Tshechu (“tenth day”) are Bhutanese festivals held every year in various temples monasteries and dzongs across the country. The Tshechu is mainly a religious event celebrated on the tenth day of a month of a lunar calendar corresponding to the birth day of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Buddhism in Bhutan- he used to convert opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods). He visited Bhutan to aid the dying king Sindhu Raja and performed a series of such dances to restore the health of the king- the grateful king helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Apparently this guy had thing for birthday parties and therefore the month of Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple
These multi-day birthday parties are large social gatherings where people from neighbouring villages come together to witness the religious mask dances which are moral vignettes based on incidents from the life of the 8th century Buddhist founder and to receive blessings from lamas. It is said that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once in their life to receive the blessings and wash away the sins. Every mask dance performed has a meaning or a story behind it. The dances are performed jointly by monks and village men- because tsechus depend on the availability of masked dancers, registered dancers are subject to fines if they refuse to perform during festivals. The focal point of the tsechus are the sacred Cham Dances, which are banned in neighbouring Tibet- the dancers take on the personas of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals in order to wipe out misfortunes, increase luck and grant personal wishes.
We were all geared up to watch this very sombre event steeped in tradition... but someone clearly forgot to warn us about the clowns. The Atsaras or clowns move through the crowds mimicking the dancers and performing comic routines in their masks with a variety of distorted facial features
I've attached far too many festival photos but, believe it or not, it's just a fraction of the thousands I took?? For the anti-photo types, take heart- my camera is making death-bed noises and my laptop hard drive is just about full.