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Tshechu- A History

Tsechu in local language literally means the tenth day of the month and is celebrated widely throughout the country to commemorate the deeds of the Great saint Guru Padmasambhava in the form of well choreographed masked dances, traditional songs and dances by men and women dressed-up in their finest colorful costumes and the unfurling of Thongdrel – a large tapestry of prominent Buddhist saints.

According to legend, the concept of Tsechu was instituted in Bhutan by Guru Padmasambhava, the great Nyingmapa scholar (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) when he first visited Bhutan and Tibet in the 8th and 9th Century. He visited Bhutan to heal the dying King Sindu Raja, the king of present Bumthang then. Padmasambhava performed series of dance of subjugation to conquer local deities and gods to restore king’s health and in return the King agreed to spread Buddhism in Bhutan.

Guru Padmasambhava instituted the first Tshechu in Bumthang where the most popular and sacred of all the mask dances, Guru Tshengye or the eight manifestation of Guru Padmasambhava were presented through eight form of dances. Myth has it that Guru Padmasambhava manifested himself in eight different human forms and danced in front of a fearful demon that was hiding from Padmasambhava.  These became the Chams (dances) depicting glory of Padmasambhava after the fearful demon was transformed into a protector of Buddhism by him.

There are other Chams (dances) presented in Tshechus also created by great scholars like Terton Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung Rimpoche, Melirepa and other great saints. These Chams are believed to be seen enacted in the dreams in the realm of zangdopelri (Guru’s Paradise) and then replicated on earth to the people and followers through Gurmas (songs)- Story of Sharop Gem Dorji,  and fables – story of the Raksha Mangcham (judgment of the dead).

According to Buddhist philosophy, it is believed that during the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are summoned through whose power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. Evil spirits and demons that are preventing the spread of Buddhism are also suppressed to help flourish the doctrine of Buddha and to bring peace and joy to all sentient beings. Therefore, Bhutanese from all walks of life take this occasion as an opportunity to cleanse themselves of any misfortunes and understand their religion in depth. They also take this annual occasion as an opportunity to flaunt their finest clothes, most precious jewels, and scrumptious food creating a very juvenile and colorful atmosphere.

How to book this tour?

Since Tsechus go on for few days and are celebrated widely in all the 20 Dzongkhags (districts) and geogs (sub-districts) at different dates, we encourage you to contact us with your specific requirement for perfect itinerary that suits your requirement and time. We can design your trip to Bhutan by focusing on one Tsechu and mixing it with other trips- hiking, cultural or bird-watching whichever you wish for. Therefore, we would be happy to discuss these plans with you.

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