Bhutan ist das einzige Land der Welt, in der die tantrische Form des Mahayana-Buddhismus als offizielle Religion gilt.
Der buddhistische Glaube spielte in der Vergangenheit ebenso wie heute eine grundlegende Rolle in der kulturellen, ethischen und gesellschaftlichen Entwicklung Bhutans. Er durchdringt alle Aspekte des täglichen Lebens und bewirkt damit Hochachtung für das Land und seine Leute.
Über das ganze Land verteilt erinnern Stupas und Chorten an jene Orte, an denen Guru Rinpoche oder ein hoher Lama meditiert haben sollen. Gebetsfahnen sind überall zu sehen, die die Kommunikation mit dem Himmel aufrecht erhalten.
Eine Vielzahl von Festen ist willkommener Anlaß für Geselligkeit.
Eine Beschreibung der einzelnen Festivals erhalten Sie hier:
Tshechu – THE BUDDHIST FESTIVAL
Festival or ‘Tshechu’ in local term is a religious event celebrated every year in various monasteries, temples and fortresses across the Kingdom of Bhutan. The dates and duration of the festivals vary from one district to another but they always take place on or around the 10th day of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, an 8th century Buddhist scholar.
During Tshechus, the dances are performed by monks as well as laymen wearing ornate costumes and masks; the each aspect of dance has a symbolic meaning mostly depicting events from the life of Guru Padmasambhava. It is widely believed that one gains merit by attending any of these festivals. Some of the festivals are observed to purify the souls and ward off evil spirit. Such high spirited sacred events are conducted & choreographed by fully ordained religious heads.
The Thimphu Tshechu, Paro Tshechu & Jambay Lakhang Drup are among the biggest in terms of participation and audience. Most Tshechus also feature the unfurling of a Thongdroel (or thangkha) – an embroidered painting. Thongdroels are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdroel is said to cleanse the viewer of sin.
These festivals apart from their enduring religious significance also provides an occasion for the locals to get together, to renew old friendships and to forge new alliances all against the backdrop of a colourful religious ceremony.
Punakha Drubchen & Punakha Tshechu
Punakha located in the western part of Bhutan, is the winter home of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of the country. It has been of critical importance since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century who is regarded as unifier of Bhutan.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen (also known as Puna Drubchen) became the annual festival of Punakha Dzongkhag.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in traditional battle gear and re-enact the ancient battle scene. This re-enactment harkens back to the time when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimphu came forward and managed to expel the invading forces from the country. Their victory ushered in a period of new-found internal peace and stability.
In 2005, another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister, His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley. The Tshechu was introduced in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
These two festivals not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and traditions but also provide devout Buddhists with an opportunity for prayer and pilgrimage. They reflect the richness of the Bhutanese cultural heritage and are very special in the eyes and hearts of both Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan.
Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan, held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the state of Bhutan, and Ponpo Rigzin Nyingpo initiated the festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong (fortress) in 1644. Featuring dances performed by trained monks and laymen in amazing masks and costumes, Paro Tshechu (festival) is one of the best ways to experience the ancient living culture of Bhutan. The festival is observed in three specific parts- the pre-festival rituals on the first day, ceremonies are undertaken on the second day inside the Paro Dzong and the main festivities on the festival ground on the remaining three days.
A highlight of Paro Tsechu is the unfurling of the silk Thangkha – so large that it covers the face of an entire building and is considered one of the most sacred blessings in the whole of Bhutan. The ‘Thangkha, known in Bhutan as a ‘thongdroel’ is a religious picture scroll, and is only exhibited for a few hours at daybreak on the final day of the festival enabling the people to obtain its blessing. This holy scroll ‘confers liberation by the mere sight of it’ (the meaning of the word ‘thongdroel’ in Bhutanese).
Paro Tshechu, one of the biggest one in terms of participation and audience is also the occasion for social bonding among the people of remote and spread-out villages.
Set in the Lamperi Botanical Garden, near Dochula pass, this festival celebrates the rhododendron flower and features the rhododendron garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural program, guided walks and similar activities. The festival showcases different species that are in full bloom in their natural habitat. Of the 46 rhododendron species recorded in the country, 29 are found in Lamperi Botanical Park, 35km from Thimphu.
The Chorten Kora Festival is one of the most popular event in eastern Bhutan. ‘Kora’ means circumambulation and the main activity of the festival is circumambulating the Chorten Kora. This festival also attracts people from the neighboring Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and brings out colorful aspects of Bhutanese culture such as mask dances, the rich textiles and brocades worn by the locals amdist the triumphant atmosphere of the festival itself.
Dakpa Kora is held on the 15th day of the 3rd month corresponding to 28th February and Drukpa Kora (circumbulation by the Bhutanese) is held on the 30th day corresponding to 15th March every year.
The Chorten (Stupa) was built by Lama Ngawang Loday in 1740on, the site where a demon was subdued. The chorten was dedicated to the memory of his late uncle, Jungshu Pesan. It is believed to be a replica of the Boudhnath stupa in Nepal and was consecrated by the 13th chief Abbot of Bhutan Je Sherub Wangchuk. Today, it is considered one of the most important historical Buddhist structures.
Further, the chorten was built so that pilgrims could visit the temple in Trashiyangtse instead of making a trip to Nepal. Also, a legend states that a young girl from Tawang, believed to have been a Khando (Dakini) agreed to be buried alive inside the Chorten. For this reason a ritual known as Dakpa Kora is organized every year where hundreds of people from Arunachal Pradesh known as the Dakpas make it to Chorten Kora to circumambulate.
Gomphu Kora lies in the heart of the agrarian belt of eastern Bhutan. It is 23 kilometers from Trashigang Dzong, the headquarters of Bhutan’s most populous district, and two kilometers from Duksum, a quaint hamlet consisting of a few shops that serves the nearby farming community.
In Chokoey (a classical script), Gomphu means ‘Meditation Cave’ and Kora means ‘Circumambulaion’. The name is derived from a cave formed out of a rock-face next to a temple that has been built as a tribute to this scared site. The story of Gomphu Kora goes back to the 8th century AD. Legends has it that an evil spirit called Myongkhapa escaped from Samye in Tibet where Guru Padmasambhava, the progenitor of the Nyingma strand of Buddhism, was spreading the Dharma in the Himalayas. Myongkhapa followed the course of the present – day Kholongchhu stream and concealed himself inside a rock where Gomphu Kora stands today. The Guru followed the evil, meditated for three days inside the rock cave and finally vanquished it.
Several prominent religious personalities have undertaken pilgrimage to Gomphu Kora in the past millennium. The Gomphu Kora temple was renovated and enlarged in the 15th century by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, the grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who founded Bhutan as a nation state. He also inscribed murals on the walls of the temple. Gyalse tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, followed his footsteps about a hundred years and renovated the temple.
‘Go around Gomphu Kora today for tomorrow may be too late’, so goes a local song that entices devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. The place comes alive, once every year, when people all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in fineries, to partake in the festivity, to worship and to reunite themselves with their illustrious past. The sanctity of the three-day religious festival equally draws the Dakpa tribes in neighboring Arunachael Pradesh (India) who endure days of travel on foot amid rugged environs with entire families in tow. Some say, the Dakpas have done this for more than a millennium, beginning shortly after Guru Padmasambhava sanctified the place in the 8th century AD.
So, in just the blink of an eye, the otherwise desolate rock-scarred landscape mushrooms into a town of tents and huts filled with people of all shades and colours. Towards dusk, the occupants of three make shift dwellings join a river of crowd for the clockwise circumambulation of the temple and the rock chanting the omnipotent mantra of Guru Rinpoche. This often lasts till dawn. The Guru is attributed to have said that devotees will flock to Gomphu Kora for eons on to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. There could not be a more accurate prophesy.
The festival also provides the much-needed respite for work-worn families and especially in recent years, the strictly religious event has also become a great social outlet.
Located at an altitude of 3,200m in breathtakingly wonderful province called Bumthang and surrounded by forests of spruce, pine, larch, fir, juniper, bamboo, rhododendron, the fascinating and one of the largest clustered village of Ura in central Bhutan exudes charm through its traditional farm houses, Buddhist temples, stupas and fluttering prayer flags.
Ura is named after Guru Padmasambhava, from the land of Ugyen (Oddiyana) who is credited to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. He is said to have first passed through this village on his way to the court of Sindhuraja in Chagkhar. Since then, the village use to be called Urbay, the hidden land of Ugyen and people in neighbouring valleys still call Ura by its ancient name. It is however the second coming of Guru Padmasambhava that the village remembers and celebrates through Yakchoe, the grand annual festival of Ura.
As per local legends, Ura community once prayed to Guru Padmasambhava to cure them of an epidemic leprosy. Guru responded to their call by appearing in form of mendicant at the house of an old lady, who was busily spinning wool on her terrace. The lady invited the mendicant to lunch, but he mysteriously disappeared when she had finished making buckwheat pancakes. Thoroughly perplexed, she sat down to spin her wool only to discover to her astonishment a statue of the Buddhist deity Vajrapani sitting in her wool container.
There are two versions of the story about how the statue subsequently reached the house of the Gadan Lam, a descendant of Tibetan Saint Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. Some say it flew there after three nights in the old lady’s house while according to others, the statue was presented to the Gadan Lam through a village consensus.
When the statue of Vajrapani reached Gadan, a nine-headed snake rose out of the place that is now known as ‘the nine-headed snake’ (puguyungdhogo) and slithered out of the valley. Leprosy, the disease spread by the serpents, was eventually overcome by the blessing of Vajrapani, the subjugator of the subterranean world. The Yakchoe is a commemoration of this important event and an offering in gratitude.
Fascinating as it may be, this account of the festival’s origin does not explain the name Yakchoe. It may well be the case that the festival has an animistic Bon origin before it was turned into a Buddhist ceremony. Even today, an archaic ritual using the Bonpo liturgical text for fumigation is performed on the third day of the festival by one of the priest dressed as a Bonpo.
Today, the Yakchoe has become an elaborate affair. It formally begins on the 12th of the third Bhutanese month with a procession from Gadan to Ura. The Vajrapani relic and the Gadan Lam are received by Ura’s priests in a long procession which trails through open fields and meadows, over streams and brooks and past chortens and mani walls, all of which provide a magnificent backdrop to the event.
Having arrived in Ura, the gomchens perform their dance tests and a religious ceremony dedicated to Vajrapani, which begins with the ritual of exorcism. This religious ritual continues for several days in early mornings and late evenings, while several masked, religious dances alternated by folk dances occupy most of the daytime. The festival ends on the fifth day with the distribution of blessings accumulated by the religious ceremony and the tour of the relic through the village before it is brought back to the old lady’s house.
Nimalung festival is three day event, celebrated at Nimalung Lhakhang located in Chumey valley of Bumthang. The district of Bumthang holds many legends dating back to the days when Guru Rinpoche first visited Bhutan. During the rule of Sindhu Raja, Guru Rinpoche was summoned in Bumthang in order to exorcise evil supernatural entities and to subdue demons haunting the valley of Bumthang. The festival symbolizes Guru’s Rinpoche’s triumph in converting the hostile local deities into Buddhist beings and freeing the valley of Bumthang from evil spirits.
This festival is held once a year in the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar. A majestic Thongdrol (gigantic scroll painting) of Guru Rinpoche is put on display for the attendees. The massive Thongdrol is said to purify wandering spirits in the region and cleanse the sins of those who look upon it. The Thongdrol was donated by Lopen (Teacher) Pemala and consecrated in June 1994.
A series of spectacular mask dances are performed during the Tshechu. The most famous being the Guru Tshengye (Dance of eight manifestation of Guru Rinpoche). The Guru Tshengye is performed as a customary tradition in most of the festivals all round Bhutan but there is difference sense of feeling when it is performed at the place where it actually originated. The dance is performed like a stage theater which gives a realistic visual of how Guru Rincpoche changed into eight different forms to subdue the local deities tormenting the souls of the people living in the valley of Bumthang. The festival is grand occasion for many Bhutanese locals and each year people from all over Bhutan gather around to pray to their guardian deities for peace and prosperity.
Tamshing Phala Chhoepa
The Tamshing Phala Chhoepa festival is held at the Tamshing monastery in Bumthang. Built in year 1501, the monastery follows the Pelliing tradition of Pema Lingpa and belongs to the Nyingmapa sect. Tamshing is headed by the venerable Lhalung Sungtrul Rimpoche, the 11th direct incarnation of Pema Lingpa. This festival is celebrated in the monastery for its cultural significance and its direct connection to the famous saint and cultural hero, Terton Pema Lingpa.
Thimphu Tshechu, held in Bhutan’s capital city, was initiated by the 4th Temporal Ruler of Bhutan, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, in 1867. The festival underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed Chhams (mask dances performed by monks). The addition also added colour without compromising the spiritual significance.
Thimphu festival begins on the 9th day and ends on the 12th day of the eighth Bhutanese month. In general, the four-day Tshechu program consists of twenty-four folk songs and twenty-five sacred dances. Usually the program for each day begins by 9 a.m.
From the years of its establishment in 1687, Thimphu Tshechu was performed inside Trashichhoedzong courtyard until 2007. However, because of the steady increase in attendees, the inner courtyard became too congested to properly perform the rites. Therefore, to accommodate a growing number of viewers, a new Tshechu stadium was constructed and named Tendrel Thang, meaning ‘Auspicious Ground’.
The annual Wangduephodrang Tshechu was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after the completion of the dzong. It is a three-day festival of mask and folk dances and founded by the 4th Temporal Ruler of Bhutan, Mr. Tenzing Rabgye (1638-1696), to commemorate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava. The Tshechu features dance by monks and laymen and concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol where people throng to receive blessings. The Tshechu is particularly famous for the Raksha Mangcham or the Dance of the Ox. Wangduephodrang festival is attended by people from Punakha and Thimphu as well and provides an occasion for merrymaking and revelry.
Note: Wangduephodrang Dzong was burnt to the ground on the 24th of June 2012. Plans are well underway to re-build. Until Dzong construction is complete, festival is organized at different location.
The Thangbi Mani festival held at Thangbi Lhakhang which was founded in 1470 by Shamar Rinpoche of the Kagyupa religious school. Located in the north of Choekkor valley, it takes about 30 minutes walk from the road through the fields of buckwheat to reach the temple.
Located at an elevation of 2730m, Thangbi temple is of historical significance and one of the temples managed by lay monks called Gomchens who are responsible for all rituals. Organized jointly by the people of three villages of Bumthang, Thangbi, Goling, during festival, the Gomchens of the monastery exhibits vibrant rituals, and young lads and lass wear masks of glorious demonic demons and animals to showcase hypnotizing masked dances and folk items believed to have hidden powers to bless onlookers with unending fortune. Also it is local belief that those amongst the present, if jump over a flame three times, are supposed to be protected from every impending misfortune at least for a year.
Thangbi Mani festival starts on 14th and concludes on 16th day of 8th Bhutanese month.
Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Jambay Lhakhang, is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom, founded by Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King in the 7th century AD. The king was destined to build 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness that was residing in the Himalayas. This temple is one of the two of the 108 built in Bhutan. A second is located in Paro, the Kichu lhakhang also built on the same day.
Legend has it that Guru Rimpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.
The first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra- Wheel of Time) inside the temple, to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Chorten lhakhang.
The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887.
One of the most spectacular festivals in the country, called Jambay lhakhang Drup is hosted here with a duel purpose and agenda. Firstly, it is a tribute to the honour of Guru Rinpoche, a saint who introduced Tantric form of Buddhism in the country and secondly, this festival commemorate the establishment of Jambay Lhakhang (temple) in the 8th century. During the festival, variety of traditional and mask dances are performed and each dance bear significance meaning. However, the highlight of Jambay Lhakhang Drup remains the fire ceremony named 'Mewang' and the religious dance known as 'Tercham'. Apart from these, the other activities include- a famous drum beat dance, a clown dance called Dola Pangtoy Shazam, Raksha Mangcham (a dance symbolizing life after death) and many more. With the proceedings of the events, this festival captures the attention of the onlookers and create a magnificent spectacle.
The annual festival is held at the Prakhar Lhakhang, in the Chumi Valley of Bumthang, which is about half an hour drive from Chamkhar town. Built in 16th century, it is main temple of the village and located about 10 minutes walk from the road. It is said that Langurs helped in making this Lhakhang and humans use to carry on work during the day while the monkeys would continue the work at night, hence the name ‘Prakhar’, which means ‘White Monkey’.
The festival lasts for 3 days from the 16th to the 18th of the ninth lunar month in the Bhutanese calendar. The festival is celebrated to honor Lama Thukse Dawa, one of the sons of the 15th century Buddhist master, Terton Pema Lingpa, who was one of the greatest Buddhist masters to be ever born in Bhutan. Several kinds of mask dances are performed during the festival.
Black necked Crane Festival
The annual Black-necked cranes festival is held every year in Phobjikha on 11th November. The festival was initiated by RSPN (Royal Society for Protection of Nature) since 1998, in an effort to promote community based-sustainable tourism in the valley and to raise awareness among the visitors and local community on the importance of crane conservation. It is also an occasion for local people to socialize, rejoice, and celebrate the arrival of crane in their valley.
The crane festival is now organized by the local community group and it entails lot of logistic arrangements and co-ordination and usually involves several people, including children. The festival generally comprises variety of cultural performances like traditional dances and dramas related to cranes and mask dances. The crane dance performed by the children during the festival is the most amusing and entertaining part of the show.
Mongar district, previously known as Zhongar, is one of the six districts that make up eastern Bhutan, bordering Bumthang, Lhuntse, Pemagatshel and Trashigang districts. The region’s landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs, gorges and dense conifer forests while the area is notably famous for its textiles, fabrics and wood carvings.
Mongar Tshechu is the most exciting annual festival held for three days, besides several local festivals in the region. Celebrated inside the Dzong, it is witnessed by people from as far as Trashigang, Trashiyangtse and Lhuentse. The festival offers numerous mask dances and is one of the most important events, the area has to offer.
The annual three day distinctive Trashigang Tshechu is one of the biggest festival in eastern Bhutan and held at Trashigang Dzong, during the 7th to 11th day of the tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar. The Tshechu is attended by the Brokpas, a semi-nomadic people those reside in the valleys of Merak and Sakteng, the Khengpa community and people from as far as Samdrup Jongkhar, Pema Gatshel and Trashiyangtse.
Preparations for the Tshechu begin two days prior to the actual festival. On the 7th day of the month the monks perform ceremonial ablutions. On 8th day, they have rehearsals in preparation for the Tshechu. Then on the 9th day of the month the Tshechu formally begins. On the 10th day, the Thongdroel (large tapestry) of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats) is unfurled amidst a flurry of mask dances. On the final day, the old Thongdroel of Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestation of Guru Rinpoche) is displayed. The unfurling is accompanied by the performance of Guru Tshengyed Chhams.
Of the many festivals held in various parts of Trongsa, the grandest is the three day annual Tshechu, held at northern courtyard of Trongsa Dzong. This festival brings together people from all walks of life and falls sometime in the month of December. In addition to traditional mask dances, visitors can witness the unfurling of the sacred Thongdroel (liberation and blessings at the sight) and receive blessings from high ranking monks. People also receive blessings from the sacred Nangtens that is opened during the last day of the Tshechu.
Ngang Ihakhang sometimes also spelt as Nalakhar, is a private temple built in the 15th century by a Tibetan lama Namkha Samdrup who moved from southern Tibet and settled in south Bumthang. When he reached the place where the temple stands today, a beautiful swan or Ngang-ma came flying in circles and landed there. The Lama considered this an auspicious sign and decided to build temple there. Until late 19th century, the temple was not maintained properly and at the time of King Ugyen Wanchuck, it was taken over by one of the lama’s collateral lineage. Ngang Lhakhang was later restored in the 1970s.
The temple which looks like a large farm house, typical of the rural religious architecture, has two storeys and is preceded by a large courtyard. The lower temple has beautiful statues of Guru Rinpoche as padmakara with his two consorts. The upper temple is a gonkhang dedicated to protective deities and house the masks for the festival as well as the protective deities images and the three deities of long life (Amitayus, Tara and Usnishavijaya).
The community holds a festival from the evening of the 15th day to 17th day of the 10th Bhutanese month. The family members from the two main lineages of Samdang Dung (said to be descendants of the 8th Tibetan King Trisong Detsen) who had settled there, and the Ngang Lhakhang Choeje, heirs of Lama Namkha Samdrup, play a central role.
The festival gives visitors the opportunity to witness its unique tradition and culture. People from all over the village and from various parts in Bhutan visit the festival annually in order to celebrate and to pray for better harvest, prosperity and happiness of the villages and the whole country of Bhutan. The spectators witness the festival dressed in their finest Ghos and Kiras (National Bhutanese Dress) and enjoys the spectacle with special Bhutanese packed lunch namely Shaakam Paa (Dried Meat) with Rice and Ema Datshi (Chilli curry made with lot of cheese). The festival is a grand occasion for all the local villagers and people from all over Bhutan visit Nalakhar during the time of the festival.
Druk Wangyel Tshechu
The Druk Wangyal festival is held every year on 13th December at Druk Wangyel Lhakhang at Dochula pass in commemoration of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Armed Forces’ victory over insurgent forces residing in southern Bhutan, in 2003. Dochula Pass (3,080m) is one of the most visited landmarks offering a stunning panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. Set amidst this spectacular backdrop, the Druk Wangyel festival is an experience unlike any other that truly exemplifies Bhutanese cultural traditions. Unlike rest of the religious festivals, Druk Wangyel Tshechu showcases unique sets of mask dances performed by the Royal Body Guard, Royal Bhutan Army and Royal Bhutan Police.