One of the most colorful festivals in the Bhutanese calendar is the Tshechu performed in all the Dzongs and in many monasteries and temples spread throughout Bhutan. Tshechu is a mask dance festival to commemorate the events in the life of Guru Rinpochoe who is revered as the second Buddha in Bhutan. There is also a display of Thongdrol, large scroll paintings of deities and saints which have the power to liberate people from sin that they had committed just by seeing it. People gather from all walks of life to witness this significant event. There are many other festivals distinct to different villages which are mostly animistic in nature performed by mediums. The festivals are moment for social get-together where people wear their finest clothes and jewelries.


Classical dances in Bhutan are reflected in the religious mask pageants and ritual dances. With the introduction of Buddhism in the 8th century AD by Guru Padmasambhava from Tibet, ritual and mask dances gained roots in the Bhutanese system as part of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. With the birth of the great Terton (treasure revealer) Pema Lingpa in the 15th century, the mask dances in Bhutan took firm roots and gained an impetus as part of the Bhutanese cultural life. The Ter Cham (treasure dances) and Pe Ling Ging Sum were the most famous of the dances that still continues to this day. In the 17th century with the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal from Tibet, the mask dances further gained importance. Many new dances were introduced. The Puna Domchoe was introduced in Punakha Dzong as accompaniment to the prayers to the protector deity Pel yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala). Je Kuenga Gyeltshen, the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji also introduced a dance in honour of Pelden Lhamo (mahakali) in Trashichhodzong. Some of the celebrated dances are Zhana cham or the Black Hat dance, the Degyed cham or the Spirit dance, the Shinje cham or the Yamaraja dance, the Durdag cham or the Dance of Shamashan Lord and the Guru Tshengyed or the Dance of the Eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava.

The religious dances are symbolic and have a common theme to destroy or trample the evil spirits. The swords of the dancers symbolize cutting through ignorance while the drums drive away all malevolent evils and demons. Witnessing the dances is believed to remove sin and take one closer towards attaining nirvana or enlightenment.

Dances are performed annually in all important Dzongs, temples and in monasteries and usually lasts for three to five days. The occasion is known as Tshechu as they are normally performed on the 10th day of the months and is an occasion for the village people to gather round and partake in the festive occasion. Dressed in their finest clothes the village people and their families mix around and be a part of this grand spectacular occasion reveling in their packed lunches and ara.
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