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Tshechu Mask Dance
The Tshechu is a festival in honour of Padmasambhava-"one who was born from a lotus flower", popularly known under the name of "Guru Rimpoche", the Precious Teacher. This Indian saint contributed enormously to the diffusion of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan etc. around 800A.D. He is the fonder of Nyingmapa, the "old school" of Lamaism, which still has numerous followers. The biography of Guru Rimpoche is highlighted by 12 episodes on the model of Buddha Shakyamuni's life.

Each episode is commemorated around the year on the 10th day of the month by "The Tshechu" which has become the name of a very popular festival.

The dates and the duration of the festival 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 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 come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery.


Thimphu TSHECHU Tshechu ground to accommodate 25,000 viewers

Both tourists and tshechu goers in Thimphu have complained about the crowded courtyard of the Tashichhdzong during the annual three-day Thimphu tshechu.

The model of the tshechu ground

Come 2008 and tshechu goers will breath comfortably with the construction of a tshechuground behind the dzong well in progress.

According to dzongkhag officials, the new ground measuring an area of 90,000 square feet will comfortably hold 25,000 viewers with separate space for changing rooms, security rooms, and a three-storied 'zeeree' for Royalty, senior officials and VIP guests.

Thimphu dzongda, Chencho Tshering, said that work has been divided into three phases and would be completed by the end of the year.

The first phase, site development, which started on 9 January 2008, will be completed in 50 days, he said.

Thimphu dzongda, Chencho Tshering, said that work has been divided into three phases and would be completed by the end of the year.

Stone slabs will be laid for the Dochen (court yard) in the second phase. "The changing rooms, security rooms, and the public toilets will also be constructed in the second phase immediately after the site development."

"With increasing number of tourists and local tshechu goers, the capacity of the courtyard had always been a concern," said a Thimphu dzongkhag official.

Rinson construction who is developing the site at Nu. 6.9 million said that the work would be completed within the scheduled time.

The construction work is managed by the Dzong maintenance Division.

People passing by the construction site, meanwhile said that the construction comes as a big relief.

"I have to wake up before dawn and rush to the courtyard to reserve place for my family," said Penjor from Taba. "The tshechu comes only once in a year and it is very difficult to see anything when we are late," he said.

Contributed by Passang Norbu, KUENSEL, Bhutan's national newspaper 2007
Tashichhodzong Thimphu


Durdag Chham
Durdag Chham - Dance of the Cremation Ground

Dance and music play a very important part in the cultural life of people. Each village and community has a rich tradition of dance, which marks the passing seasons, communal occasions and shared experiences. Just like the building of the dzongs and the setting up of the Chhoesi System, the dances have had a similar part to play in helping to unite the people. Through these dances, the ordinary people come to know their place in the history of the country. Chhams "Religious Mask Dances" are usually performed during Tshechus.

The Chhams were composed mainly to convey religious messages to the people.

Some were composed by Guru Rimpoche while others were created by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung Rimpoche and other great saints. During the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are invoked and through their power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. All evil spirits and demons which are preventing the spread of Chhoe "The Doctrine" are suppressed so that the doctrine of Lord Buddha flourish and bring joy and happiness to all sentient beings.

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