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Paro Tsechu Festival
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Festivals of Bhutan
Bhutandzongs Religious festivals are held annually in Bhutan's dzongs at various times of the year. The main purpose of the festivals is to ward off evil through music, dancing, and rituals and to bring good fortune to the next year. You can watch mask dances, sword dances, and fire dances performed in the courtyards of the dzongs. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed either by monks or lay persons, and most of the dances date back to before the Middle Ages.

At the end of some festivals you can witness the unveiling of a "thongrel," which is a tapestry of sorts that is hung from a wall in the dzong's courtyard. It is said that watching the unveiling of a thongrel will bring you good luck. Many visitors come to Bhutan to enjoy the most popular festivals, which are held in Paro in the spring and in Thimphu and Bumthang in the fall. Festivals are well worth attending because they give you a different sense of the Bhutanese culture, plus they're fun and entertaining. Due to the interest in the festivals, these are the busiest times of the year for tourism.

The Tshechu is festival honoring Guru Padsambhava - 'one who was born from lotus flower'. This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan etc. around 800 A.D. 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 Buddha's Shakyamuni's life. Each episode is commemorated around the year on the 10th day of the month by 'the tshechu'. The dates and 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 Tshechus, the dances are performed by monks as well as laymen. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merit. It is also a yearly social gathering where the people, dressed in all their finery, come together to rejoice.

Festival Etiquette
Buddhist Monks Bhutan Festivals are religious events. The ground where they are held is purified and consecrated by lamas, so when you are watching a festival, you are in essence, on the perimeter of an outdoor religious ground. The conduct of the onlooker should be governed with this in mind. The dancers, whether monks or laymen, are in state of meditation. They transform themselves into deities which they represent on the dance ground. They generate a spiritual power, which cleanses, purifies, enlightens and blesses the spectators.

With this in mind, it should be clear that obtrusive, disrespectful or discourteous behavior is out of place. The dance ground is not a place to eat, drink or smoke, talk or laugh loudly at inappropriate times, flash cameras or intrude on the dance space. Common courtesy should rule one's action when photographing dances or onlookers.

Festivals are not pageants or entertainment events. They are not held as tourist attractions. They are genuine manifestations of religious traditions thousands of year old which outsiders are given the privilege of witnessing. We would like to see that privilege retained, without in any way impairing or infringing on the beauty and sacredness of the ritual.

Please bear in mind the some past actions of unthinking visitors have caused shock and dismay to the local people. Any recurrence of such unfortunate events may lead to future restrictions on attendance at festivals. We hope that our tour members will always display courtesy, sensitivity and respect to the people of Bhutan who have welcomed them to attend these beautiful and sacred events, and will visibly demonstrate their respect by dressing as well as their circumstances permits on such occasions.