Thimpu Tsechu FestivalTsechu (literally the tenth day) are the annual religious festivals held in each district or Dzongkha of Bhutan on the tenth day of the lunar Tibetan Calendar. Tsechus are the religious festivals of the ‘Red Hat Sect’ or ‘Drukpa’ lineage of Buddhism. The Thimpu and Paro Tsechu are among the biggest of the Tsechus in terms of participation and audience. Tsechus are social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people.
Paro / Thimpu
Day 1: (12th Sept) Arrival Paro (2280m) & Drive to Thimphu (65km / 1hr)
Flight into Paro takes you over the great Himalayas, offering most beautiful scenery of the world’s highest peaks. As you enter Paro valley, you will see the Paro Dzong (fortress) on the hillside overlooking the Paro Chu (river), with Ta Dzong, formerly a watch tower and now National Museum, above it. On arrival you will be greeted by our representative and driven to Thimphu.
The first stop will be Tachocho Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s Iron Bridge Builder and further drive we will reach to Chuzom marks by the confluence of Paro Chu (river) and the Wang chu. Opposite of us, at the confluence, are three protecting chortens each built in a different style. Evening stroll through the market and mingle with the local people, visit shops and weekend market.Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 2: (13th Sept) Thimphu (2320m)
Today’s exploration of Thimphu begins with visit to National Memorial Chorten, a stupa dedicated to world peace and prosperity in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan; the Kingdom’s rich culture at the National Library; the National Institute of Zorig Chusum where students undergo training course in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts; Folk Heritage Museum which will provide an insight into traditional Bhutanese farm house and rural past through exhibits and documentation of rural life.
After lunch visit Changangkha Lhakhang, a fortress like temple which lies perched on a ridge above Thimphu; Takin Rreserve to see the rare national animal of Bhutan, unique animal associated with the country’s religious history and mythology. A further drive towards the BBS tower will provide a bird’s view of the capital; visit Nunnery temple and Tashichho Dzong or “the fortress of the glorious religion” which is Bhutan’s administrative and religious centre and houses the throne of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan and other Government offices. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo or Chief Abbot. Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 3 & 4: (14th & 15th Sept) Thimphu Festival.
One of the biggest festivals in Bhutan, Thimphu Tshechu is held in the capital city for three days starting from 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Before the actual tshechu that is being witnessed by thousands of people from the capital city and the nearby Dzongkhags, days and nights of prayers and rituals are conducted to invoke the gods.
It was first initiated by the 4th Desid, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867. It had only a few dances being performed and that too strictly by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (dances of the 21 black hats), Durdag (dance of the lords of the cremation ground), and the Tungam chham (dance of the terrifying deities).
Thimphu tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). The additions have added color without compromising the spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (eight manifestations of Guru), Shaw Shachi (dance of the stags) are enjoyed because they are like Stage Theater performances.Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to have entranced the evil forces and prevented them from causing harm during tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.
Thimphu Dromchoe : Besides the annual three day tshechu, Thimphu also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu Dromchoe. The day long festival dates back to the 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The dromchoe is celebrated 3 days earlier to the Thimphu Tshechu.The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the protecting deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the dance ceremony. Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 5: (16th Sept) Punakha Excursion (1300m) (77km / 2 ½hrs)
Your journey continues with travels to the east onwards to Punakha through some of the Kinddom’s richest agricultural land and most dramatic river valleys. En route you will stop over Dochu La, the 3050meter pass; snow-capped eastern Himalayan ranges can be seen on a clear day. Prayer flags will flutter you over the pass deeper into the essence of Bhutan. The beauty is further enhanced by the Druk Wangyal Chorten – 108 stupas built by the eldest Queen Mother. Once you cross the pass, you wind down into a warm fertile valley.
After lunch visit Punakha Dzong which stands majestically at the junction of the two rivers- Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). The Dzong is said to be the most beautiful of dzong in Bhutan; it is an outstanding structure with intense artwork, and is the winter residence of the Je khempo (chief abbot). Also this is the second dzong built in Bhutan by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyel in the year 1637. Evening drive back to Thimphu. Overnight stay at hotel in Thimphu.
Day 6: (17th Sept) Paro Tiger’s Nest Hike.
Today’s day will begin driving back to the Paro valley to take on a stunning hike on foot to visit the Taktshang Gompa or Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Our hike to Taktshang from the road point will take through the well maintained path which is quite uphill and it takes around 3-4 hours at an average walking speed. The trail climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees adorned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop for a rest and light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria.
This incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in 747 AD, flew here on the back of a flying tiger Dorji Drolo, said to be his consort.
We will visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang, a scared monument pinning down the left foot of a treacherous ogress, which is built in 659 A.D by the Tibetan king Srongsen Gampo. This Monastery is one of the 108 monasteries built across the Himalayan region by the Tibetan King to subdue the Demoness that lay across the Himalayan region. The rest of the monasteries lie in other neighboring countries; Drugyel Dzong the imposing fortress which was the strategic vantage point for numerous defeat of invading Tibetan armies and here in clear weather can view the spectacular view of mount Jomolhar 7314m.
In the afternoon, drive to the beautiful valley to the watch tower or locally known as Ta-Dzong. The third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck housed it into the National museum in the 1960s. The seven floor museum highlights various aspects of Bhutanese culture and history dating back to the 7th century. A short walk downhill to the Rinpung Dzong which serves as the administrative center and school for monks, and walk further down crossing the traditional bridge into Paro Town. Overnight stay at hotel in Paro.
Day 7: (18th Sept) Departure from Paro.
In the Morning drive to Paro International Airport to board your flight for your onward journey.