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Bhutan Festivals

The Festivals in Bhutan have reputations for being raucous, joyous affairs, but they are holy spiritual events with attendees gaining merit for the next life. Tshechus dedicated to Guru Rimpochhe are celebrated for several days, between three and five according to the location. The highlight are the classical, religious-based dances, and in some Tshechus the viewing of the Thongdreol (Huge and sacred Thanka). In a few important Dzongs, two large festivals take place each year, a Dromchheo, which is dedicated to Yeshey Geonpo or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective deities of the Drukpas (Bhutanese people). Bhutanese are known as Drukpas in Bhutan.

The most popular for tourists are the Tshechus held in Thimphu, Punakha, Paro and Bumthang. They mark the busiest time of year for the tourism industry. The Dzongs come to life with color, music, and dancing as valley dwellers and townsfolk's dress in their finest clothes and join together to exorcise evil spirits and rejoice in a new harvest. Rare masked sword dances and other rituals are performed in Dzong courtyards and temples. Most of the dances date back from before the Middle Ages and are only performed once or twice each year. Each dance has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or lay village elder dressed in bright costumes. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of huge religious appliques or Thongdreols. The moment of the unveiling is shrouded in secrecy and creates great excitement among all the participants. Tourists are allowed into the Dzongs to watch the festivals, but are not allowed into the inner sanctuaries. Photography should always be discreet. It is generally allowed for photographs to be taken at Tshechus but not at Dromchheos.

Small villages throughout Bhutan have their own local festivals that are too numerous to list. All of the festival dates are based on lunar Buddhist calendar and vary from year to year.