various times throughout the year, annual festivals known
as "tsechus" take place around the country, but
there are other festivals too. Tsechus are festivals extolling
the great deeds of the Buddhist Saint, Padmasambhava, popularly
known as "Guru Rinpoche" in our mountain kingdom.
All of Guru Rinpoche's great deeds are believed to have
taken place on the 10th day of the month, which is the meaning
of the word tsechu, and all tsechus do in fact take place/begin
on 10th days. All the districts, dzongs and a large number
of villages in the east, hold annual tsechus, which attract
people from far and wide.
Tsechus are celebrated for several days
(usually between three and five, depending on where taking
place) and are the occasion for dances that are clearly
defined in religious content. They can be performed by monks,
laymen or gomchens and the repertory is more or less the
Certain tsechus end with the veneration
of a huge applique thangkha, called a "thongdroel".
The thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring enlightenment
to all who view it. Festival goers believe that by simply
viewing this thongdroel, they can be delivered from the
cycle of birth and rebirth, which is the ultimate aim of
Some tsechus also have a "wang",
a collective verbal blessing given by a high lama. Colored
threads are distributed, and people tie them around their
necks as witness to the blessing. Sometimes the wang is
called "mewang" meaning "blessing by fire"
which burns away their impurities.
are clowns whose expressive masks and postures are an indispensable
element in any religious festival. They confront the monks,
toss out salacious jokes, and distract the crowd with their
antics when the religious dances begin to grow tedious.
Believed to represent Acharyas, religious masters of India,
they are the only people permitted to mock religion in a
society where sacred matters are treated with the highest
respect. For a few days these popular entertainers are allowed
the freedom to express a formulaic challenge within an established
framework that does not, however, upset the social and religious
Some religious festivals include only a
few dances and consist mostly of readings from a particular
text. On these occasions, villagers assemble in a temple
and participate in the prayers while at the same time drinking
strong alcoholic beverages. Each village takes pride in
its annual religious festival, and any villagers who have
gone to live in the city are expected to come back home
for it. Such villagers will themselves sponsor a large part
of the cost of mounting the festival.
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