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Dagana: 5-day tshechu to invoke local deities
The last tshechu of the female bird year, the annual Dagana tshechu, concludes today with the unfurling of the Neten Chudrug Thongdroel. While annual tshechus elsewhere in the country last for three days, the Dagana tshechu goes on for five days.

According to the Dagana Neten, Lam Ugyen, the duration of the tshechu is associated with the five local deities of Dagana.

Mask dances are performed outside the dzong

Lam Ugyen explained that according to local religious belief five local deities - Jomo Dakamo, Dechen Zangmo, Sha-thong-Chen, Ta-Tshong-Gang-bur and Go bur Kencho - protect the people of Dagana.

Each day of the tshechu begins with an atsara invoking all the five deities.

An ex army man, Ap Sharib, 67, from Peling village said that tshechus today was fun to watch with mask dancers wearing so many colourful costumes. "In the past, costumes were hard to find and mask dancers had to borrow them from various monasteries and people who owned them."

Elderly Dagaps say that before 1983, the dzongda (and dzongpon before that) and the Lam Neten of the dzong were received every morning on horseback from the dzong in a traditional chipdrel ceremony during the tshechu.

Apart from a time of religious reconciliation, many of the younger generation also see the tshechu as a venue for entertainment. "We get to see so many new people and new things and wear new cloths. It is interesting," said Sonam Dorji, a primary school student.

This year, side attractions during the annual festival were a magic show and several dice stalls apart from some makeshift hotels.

Dzongda Goling Tshering said that most of those who attend the tshechu were from nearby geogs like Drujaygang, Kana, Seza and Khabesa. "Some residents of Drujaygang still come on foot using a mule track which takes them two days just to reach here to attend the tshechu," he said.

Dagana town has about 700 residents while Dagana dzongkhag has a population of a little more than 21,000 according to dzongda Goling Tshering. Of the 11 gewogs four are partially electrified.

Contributed by Tashi Dorji, KUENSEL, Bhutan's national newspaper, 2006
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