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Tsechu cham

Masked dancers at the Phodrang tsechu

Tsechu (literally "day ten") are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district or dzongkhag of Bhutan on the tenth day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar. The month depends on the place, but usually is around the time of October. Tsechus are religious festivals of Drukpa Buddhism. The Thimphu tsechu and tha Paro tsechu are among the biggest of the tsechus in terms of participation and audience. Tsechus are large social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people of remote and spread-out villages. Large markets also congregate at the fair locations, leading to brisk commerce.[1]

Tsechu traditions

The focal point of the tsechus are the sacred Cham Dances, which are banned in neighbouring Tibet. These costumed, masked dances typically are moral vignettes, or based on incidents from the life of the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher Padmasambhava and other saints. [1]

Most tsechus also feature the unfurling of a thongdrel (or thangka) - a large tapestry typically depicting a seated Guru Rinpoche surrounded by holy beings, the mere viewing of which is said to cleanse the viewer of sin. The thongdrel is unrolled before dawn and rolled up by morning.

History of Tsechus

Padmasambhava, the great Nyingmapa scholar, visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th century and 9th century. He used to convert opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods. He visited Bhutan to aid the dying king Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava performed a series of such dances in the Bumthang valley to restore the health of the king. The grateful king helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Padmasambhava organized the first tsechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form) were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the Chams depicting the glory of Padmasambhava.

In popular culture

The Bhutanese film Travellers and Magicians is set among a group of travellers, most of whom are going to the Thimphu tsechu.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dancing on the demon's back: the dramnyen dance and song of Bhutan, by Elaine Dobson, John Blacking Symposium: Music Culture and Society, Callaway Centre, University of Western Australia, July 2003


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