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A look at the Yon-Phuel Tshechu
Yon Phuel Tshechu The drametse ngacham being performed at the Tshechu

The Yon-Phuel Lhakhang resonates with the blaring sound of religious musical instruments and the latest Bhutanese music in the background as hundreds of people squeeze their way to witness a dance or to try their luck in a fair stall during the annual Tshechu in Trashigang.

The drametse ngacham being performed at the Tshechu

Yon-Phuel Tshechu has undergone a transition," recalls 62-year old Wangdi from Pangthang, who has not missed the Tshechu for about a decade. Ten years ago, only a few villagers came to witness the Tshechu butnow every year apart from the large crowd that the Tshechu attracts,many fair stalls and makeshift huts serving as temporary shops has added to the charm of the Tshechu.

While some come to witness the festival, there are a few whopurposely come to shop during the Tshechu because in a remote placelike this social gatherings are very rare and shops very few, said a regular visitor. Some Thimphu based businessmen have also come all the way to decorate the Tshechu with electric rice cookers, water boilers and evenelectric pans. One significant change at the Tshechu according to the Kanglung gupis the decrease in alcohol consumers.

"Many villagers, under the influence of alcohol spent nights in the open air and went back home completely broke. It was a sort of drinking festival some years back, but now it has changed," the gup said. "To many the Yon-Phuel Tshechu is also known as kholong Tshechu, (kholong meaning to brawl)," explained a village elder.

The great saint Terton Pema Lingpaon
The unique Yon-Phul Tshechu not only differs from other festivals in the east but also plays an important role in keeping the spiritual tradition alive of a very close-knit community.

Yon-Phuel Tshechu, as its name describes, received its name when the community of Yonphu out of desperation offered a plot of land as choe-yon or holy offering to the great saint Terton Pema Lingpaon his visit to eastern Bhutan.

According to Pangthang Lam Singye Wangchuk who conducts the annual Tshechu, the community of Yonphu (including the villages of Mertsam, Kanglung, Yonphula, Pangthang) has heard about the great terton's visit, but since they did not have anything worthy to offer, they offered a plot of land, which belonged to the community.

The great saint in return, built a monastery on the same plot and created a tsehchu to invoke the deities of the tantric teaching and remove the misfortune of the community through mask dances.

Celebrating the Tshechu in the Peling tradition

Here after, the community of Yonphu celebrated the Yon-Phuel Tshechu in the famous Peling tradition. Unlike other Tshechus in the east the Yon-Phuel Tshechu is celebrated thrice in a year under different names. And the community still equally enjoys the blessing.

The villagers organize the festival themselves
Kyichu monastery near Paro

Shouldering responsibilities themselves the three-day Tshechu is solely organized and performed by the villagers themselves. While layman perform the dances and villagers contribute food grains to sustain the three-day festival, businessmen also contribute money during all the three Tshechus.
Kanglung gup Ugyen Dorji told that contribution was compulsory when the Tshechu first started about 370 years ago. "Apart from cash, about 250 households still contribute rice, wine, kharang and diary products to keep the tradition alive," said the gup.

"Nobody sponsored the Tshechu, but the Tshechu although cashs trapped still continues to keep an age old tradition. By witnessing such an important festival ordinary people come to know their place in the history of the country," he added.

Several hundred devotees from as far as Womrong in the south and Yangtse in the north attended the three-day Tshechu that endedearlier this week by reveling to the public the sacred relics of the Yon-Phuel lhakhangs.

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