One of the biggest festivals in the country is the Thimphu Tshechu, “ Thimphu Festival’’. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of which travel from neighboring dzongkhang (district) to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by the days and nights of the prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.
When it was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 the Tshechu consisted of only a few dances being performed strictly by monks. These were the Zhana Chham and the Zhana Nga Chham (Dances of 21 black hats), Durday (Dance of the lords cremation ground), and the Tungam Chham (Dance of the terrifying deities).
The Thimphu Tshechu underwent a change in the 1950’s when the King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, introduced numerous Boed Chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). These additions added colour and variation to the festival without compromising its spiritual significance. Mask dances like Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestation of Guru), Shaw Shachi (Dance of Stags) are enjoyed because they are similar to stage- Theater.
Equally important are the Atsaras, who are the more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and jesting of the Astara are believed to entrance evil forces and prevent them from causing harm during Tsehchus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.
To farmers, the Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It’s an occasion to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.
Besides the annual three days Tshechu, also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu- Dromchoe. The day long festival dates back to 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The Dromchoe is celebrated 3 days prior to the Thimphu- Tshechu.
The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the chief protective deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Dromchoe.