A Year In Bhutan
Upcoming Festivals & Events in 2019

 




G FESTIVAL CALENDAR


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For the Year of the Earth Female Pig in 2019 we have curated key dates for national holidays, special events and the renowned festivals (tsechus). Browse any month below and see what’s happening.

ABOUT FESTIVALS

Festival time in each community is not only an auspicious and sacred occasion it is also one of the main social gatherings of the year. Throngs of festival goers all dressed in their “Sunday best” gather to witness the pageantry and receive blessings.

To the crash of cymbals, sonorous drumbeats and lilting horns, monks adorned in ornate costumes perform dances in masks representing animals, fearsome deities, skulls, or manifestations of the Buddhist Saint Padmasambhava (known as ‘Guru Rimpoche’ or a ‘second Buddha’, who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century). The dances offer a combination of moral messages, ward off evil spirits and celebrate the Buddhist faith in wonderful medieval style.

PLEASE NOTE

In keeping with the Buddhist concept of impermanence, dates do have a habit of shifting so do please contact us for the most up-to-date information on any of the happenings listed here. Email: info@guidesofbhutan.com


January

3rd


Nyilo – Winter Solstice
v Bhutan National Holiday

On this auspicious day children are the focus as it’s believed they bring good luck for the year ahead. Kids recite ancient verses and in return receive gifts of essentials like butter, salt, rice, wheat etc.

6th


Traditional Day of Offering
v Bhutan National Holiday

Locally known as buelwa phuewi nyim it is a time to give thanks and offerings typically directed towards Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of the Bhutan in the early seventeenth century. Traditional sports are played such as archery, digor, darts and dice whilst everyone dresses up for picnics or great feasts.

3rd – 7th


Lhuentse Tshechu
v Lhuentse Dzong, East Bhutan

A typical tsechu but in the far east, where locals proudly show off their “Kishuthara” an intricately patterned silk textile weaved primairly in the remote Khoma village.

4th – 7th


Trongsa Tshechu
v Trongsa Dzong

The massive Trongsa Dzong has long been the strategic lynchpin between east and west, controlling the flow of people, goods, news etc. Its great power is reflected in its 30 temples, the fact that the Bhutanese royal family can trace their origins back to the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) and that the sacred dances (Chams) performed at many tsechus originated here. On the last day of the tsechu, a giant Thongdrol is unfurled (a religious tapestry of applique silk work with sacred buddhist images).

10th – 12th


Nabji Lhakhang Drup
v Nabji Lhakhang, Trongsa

The hike to the village is rewarded with a wonderful expreience as laymen (gomchen) perform rituals and celebrations as villagers believe that by the grace of the local deities there will be no disasters or epidemics in the village, nor indeed in all of Bhutan. At the same time, the village will be blessed with abundant wealth and bountiful crops, and peace and harmony will reign in Bhutan. A naked dance is performed during one night.


February

5th


Losar – Bhutanese New Year
v Bhutan National Holiday

Losar New Year, based on the Buddhist calendar, is observed in Bhutan, Tibet, and by certain people groups of Nepal and India. “Losar” comes from the Tibetan words “lo,” meaning “year,” and “sar,” meaning “new”. This time around, the Male Earth Dog Year gives way to the Earth Female Pig Year.

FEB


Lhamoi Dromchoe
v Trongsa Dzong Central Bhutan

The chams (dances) performed by the monks of Trongsa Dzongkhag include many worshipping the female guardian deity of Bhutan, Mahakali.

12th – 14th


Punakha Drubchen
v Punakha Dzong

One of the oldest festivals of the district it dramatises how the local Pazap militia duped and defeated an invading Tibetan army and forced them to withdraw back in the 17th century. This event is a celebration of a Bhutanese roots as the victory marked the start of the unification of the kingdom.

15th – 17th


Punakha Tsechu
v Punakha Dzong

Following on from the Drubchen this popular tshechu held in the Palace of Great Happiness in renowned for the unfurling of the thongdrol (a religious tapestry of applique silk work with sacred buddhist images including Guru Rinpoche) – it is believed that a beholding such a tapestry liberates an onlooker and cleanses them of all sin.

19th


Tharpaling Thongdrel Festival
v Tharpaling Lhakhang, Chumey Bumthang

A one day festival mainly for the display of the gaint thangka or thongdrol of Jowo Jampa (or Maitreya the Future Buddha) and Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam (revered master/scholar of Nyingma Buddhist Tradition). The thongdrol is preceded by 10 days of prayer ceremonies called the Moelam Chenmo performed by the monks of Tharpaling Lhakhang for the people of Chumey, but no dances are performed at all.

19th – 21st


Bhutan Birds Festival
v Berti Eco-campsite, Zhemgang

Zhemgang is a mecca for birdwatchers due to the large number of native bird species found there. During the festival different artworks are show cased and guided birding tours and photography tours are organized.

21st


Birth Anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck 5th King of Bhutan
v Bhutan National Holiday

His Majesty the 5th King of Bhutan was born on 21st February 1980 and to mark this important event, people in every dzongkhag observe the day with various cultural programs.


March

MAR


Tangsibi Mani
v Tangsibi Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang

Religious rituals and celebrations in a temple 20 km beyond the village of Ura. Some of the chams (dances) performed over the four days were composed by the great local saint Terton Pema Lingpa (the Treasure Discoverer).

MAR


Buli Mani
v Buli Lhakhang, Bumthang

Local laymen (gomchens) perform dances said to be composed by the great local saint Terton Pema Lingpa (the Treasure Discoverer) over the three days of this local festival.

2nd


Bhutan Marathon
v Gasa to Punakha

Runners from all over the world compete over the full or half marathon distances starting high in the mountains in Gasa and finishing down in the Punakha Valley.

14th – 16th


Gomphukora Festival
v Gom Kora Lhakhang, Trashigang

The biggest attraction of Gomphu Kora in Eastern Bhutan is the circumambulation (kora) “Go around Gomphu Kora today, for tomorrow may be too late”, advises a local song inviting devotees to attend the festival at temple and meditation cave near Trashigang Dzong. The sanctity of this three day festival draws devotees dressed in their finery from as far away as Arunachael Pradesh in India.

14th – 17th


Talo Tsechu
v Talo Goenpa, Punakha

Renowned for its masked dances and atsaras (sacred/profane “clowns”) this three-day Tshechu also includes a deeply religious and historically significant classical dance called Zhungdra along with the three songs of Mani Sum, proudly performed by the locals at the close of each day.

14th – 17th


Zhemgang Tshechu
v Zhemgang Dzong

Annual Dzongkhag Tshechu performed by the monks of Zhemgang Dzongkhag as well as the boechampas. Typical dances/chams are on show as well as a Thongdrel unfurling.

14th – 16th


Gasa Tshechu
v Gasa Dzong

The biggest festival in the small district of Gasa in northwest Bhutan. The “highlanders” not only enjoy masked dances they also perform unique local folk dances adding to the festive mood of the celebration.

17th – 21st


Paro Tsechu
v Rinpung dzong

The Paro Tshechu is one of the biggest festivals in the country and even boats a large fair nearby. On the first day, all mask dances are held inside the courtyard inside Rinpung Dzong, moving just out to the festival ground for the last four days with a massive thongdrel of Guru Rinpoche displayed on the last night until minutes before dawn.

21st – 4th


Chorten Kora Festival
v Chorten Kora, Trashiyangste

DATE(S)
21/03/2019 – 04/05/19

One of the oldest religious festivals held in eastern Bhutan involves circumambulating the famous Chorten Kora (Buddhist shrine) on the last day of the auspicious first month of the Bhutanese calendar.

SATURDAYS


Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial National Archery Tournament
v Changlimithang, Thimpu

Every Saturday from March to May teams play rounds at Changlimithang Archery Range in Thimphu. The finals will take place in the first week of May.


April

5th


Shabdrung Kuchoe
v Bhutan National Holiday

Shabdrung Kuchoe celebrates the death anniversary of “The Shabdrung”, who is credited with founding the Buddhist Drukpa lineage in Bhutan and with establishing the Kagyu school of Buddhism in the country.

6th


Bhutan Sports Festival
v Gangte

The First Sports and Culture Festival in Bhutan’s Pristine Conservation Sanctuary – The First One-Day International Ultra and Trail Running Events in Bhutan: 25K & 50K – The First International Mountain Biking Events in Bhutan: 25K & 50K.

TBD


Zhuri Duechoed
v Zhuri Lhakhang, Chumey, Bumthang

The one day Zhuri Duechoed is observed in Zhuri Lhakhang (temple) in Chumey, Bumthang which is considered the kingdom’s spiritual heartland having been blessed by numerous great saints in olden times.

TBD


Gayden Choedpa
v Gayden Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang

This initimate festival takes place in the sacred Gayden Lhakhang (temple) in Ura, Bumthang.

14th 16th


Domkhar Tsechu
v Domkhar Lhakhang, Bumthang

Domkhar Lhakhang (temple) was built by Serkhong Truelku during the 18th century and its tsechu features dances performed by the people of Domkhar village. On the last day the lhakhang displays large thongdrols to bless the local community.

TBD


5th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition
v Punakha

The 5th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition will be held at the Thangzona, in Punakha.

16th – 20th


Ura Yakchoed
v Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang

At the top of the village of Ura its temple houses a huge statue of Guru Rimpoche and beautiful murals. One highlight of the festival is the invoking and escorting of a small statue of the Bodhisattva, Yidam Chhana Dorjee from Gaythen temple through the countryside to Ura in honour of a local legend.

19th 21st


Rhododendron Festival
v Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula

A celebration of the rhododendron in bloom with a garden walk and exhibition, local culture and cuisines, arts and crafts, traditional games, cultural programs, guided walks and activities.


May

TBD


Zobel Tsechu
v Zobel Lhakhang, Zobel, Pemagatshel

Zobel gewog under Pemagatshel Dzongkhag is known for its many sacred religious monuments which comprise about 13 temples and 50 chortens.

TBD


Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial National Archery Tournament (Finals)
v Changlimithang archery range, Thimpu

Changlimithang archery range in Thimphu – The finals will take place in the first week of May.


June

TBD


12th Coronation Marathon
v Paro

An international sports event organized by Bhutan Amateur Athletic Federation (BAAF) in collaboration with the Bhutan Olympic Committee the race commemorates the coronation of His Majesty the fourth King of Bhutan.

TBD


Padseling Kuchoed
v Padseling Goenpa, Choekhor, Bumthang

Several mask dances are performed including the Pacham, Ging cham and the blessing of the Phurba (spiritual dagger) which is the main relic in the monastery.The Goenpa (monastery) is a special pilgrimage site. Look out for the impression of a white snake on a rock to the east of the temple, a holy waterhole to the south, the marking of a conch on a rock to the east and rock stacks towards the north that resemble holy scriptures.

17th


Lord Buddha’s Parinirvana
v Bhutan National Holiday

One of the most auspicious days in Bhutan according to Mahayana Buddhism with prayers offered in commemoration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and entry into Nirvana.


July

TBD


Birth Anniversary of Guru Rinpoche
v Bhutan National Holiday

A holdiay to mark the birth of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava – the Lotus Born) who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century – many of the Kingdom’s monasteries and temples will arrange some form of celebration or mass prayers today.

10th – 11th


Nimalung Treldha
v Nimalung Dratshang, Bumthang

The three day Nimalung Tshechu starts with the usual chams (dances) but on the final day, people are blessed with the display of Guru Tshengye Thongdrol (tapestry) in the morning and on the final day there is teh opportunity to witness the Guru Tshengye cham and Drametse Nga Cham performed by the monks of Nimalung Dratshang.

11th


Kurjey Tsechu
v Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

The people of Jakar, Kurjey and surrounding attend the Tshechu to pay obeisance to Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The dances include the Guru Tshengye and Shinjay cham and are performed by the monks of Kurjey Lhakhang before the festival culminates with the unfurling of a giant Buddha/Guru thongdrel (tapestry).

13th – 14th


Haa Summer Festival
v Haa Town Festival Ground

A celebration of traditional living-culture, nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports and religious performances in the far west of the Kingdom – over the Chele La from Paro.

TBD


Kadam Goenpa Festival
v Kadam Goenpa, Mongar

A rare summertime festival held at Kadam Monastery in Mongar with masked dances and local folk songs.


August

4th


First Sermon of Lord Buddha Day
v Bhutan National Holiday

Drukpa Tshezhi honours the first sermon of Buddha Shakyamani, known as the Sermon of the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Deer Park in Sarnath, India – locals mark the auspicious day with pujas at their local temples.

15th – 16th


Matsutake Mushroom Festival, Thimpu
v Genekha, Thimpu

The highly prized and delicious Matsutake Mushroom is the headliner at this event promoting sustainable harvesting of the local wild produce mushroom and some of teh best ways to enjoy eating. A cultural program is also put on by the local community and school kids.

23rd – 24th


Matsutake Mushroom Festival, Ura
v Ura, Bumthang

Ura is not only where Matsutake mushrooms grow, the valley offers one of the most authentic experiences of traditional rural Bhutanese life. Attendees are invited on guided mushroom picking excursions in the nearby pristine forested hills, then to sample delicious Matsutake local recipes and join in with songs and dancing with the Uraps.

22nd – 25th


Mountain Echoes Festival
v Thimpu

The Bhutan Festival of Literature, Art & Culture welcomes creatives from all over the world to engage in cultural dialogue, share stories, create memories and spend three blissful days in the mountains www.mountainechoes.org.


September

9th


Tour of the Dragon Bike Race
v Bumthang to Thimpu

The Tour of the Dragon mountain bike race starts in Bumthang and travels 268 km over 4 mountain passes before finishing in Thimphu, making it one of the toughest one-day bike races in the world. Who will be crowned “Son of the Dragon” this year?

10th


Dragon’s fury Bike Race
v Messina to Thimpu

The Dragon’s Fury Race (little brother to the Tour) starts in Messina at an altitude of 1410 m (4625 ft), travels up to Dochula at 3150 m (10,330 ft), then it’s downhill all the way to the finish by the clocktower in Thimphu.

TBD


Bum Tashi Festival
v Gasa Dzong

Offerings, prayers and shows in honour of the area’s protecting deity Tashi Thongoen held up at Gasa Dzong 3-4 hours drive from Punakha (don’t miss the hot springs here).

TBD


Shakshing Goenpa Tsechu
v Shaksinggoenpa, Khamdang, Trashi Yangste

This goenpa (monastery) is located in Khamdang, Eastern Bhutan and anyone making the arduous journey is rewarded with a lovely festival of song, dance and ritual. Beyond the monastery, seek out the “Taktsang” or Tiger’s Nest of the East – Omba Ney.

23rd


Blessed Rainy Day
v Bhutan National Holiday

Happy Blessed Rainy Day! We celebrate to mark the end of harvest and monsoon. All water sources are sacred today so we cleanse ourselves of bad karma & wish you all health, wealth & happiness – why not book a hot stone bath at your lodge and join in? – Thrue-Bab Tashi Delek!


October

3rd


Thimphu Dromchoe
v Tashi Chhodzong, Thimpu

Thimphu Dromchoe precedes the popular three-day Thimphu Tshechu. The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the protecting deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo.

5th – 7th


Wangdue Tsechu
v Wangduephodrang

The festival is held in Wangduephodrang and is observed for three days in the autumn season. The Tshechu is well known for the Raksha Mangcham or the dance of the Ox. Many different kinds of mask dances are performed during the festival. It concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdrol.

7th – 9th


Thimpu Tsechu
v Tashi Chhodzong, Thimpu

One of the biggest festivals in the country the three day Thimphu Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people, both local and tourists. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Shaw Shachi (Dance of the Stags) and many more are performed.

7th – 9th


Tamshing Phala Tsechu
v Tamshing Lhakhang, Bumthang

People come from far and wide to witness the monks of Tamzhing Monastery dance chams in honour of Tertoen Pema Lingpa (Peling Sung Cham) including the Phagchham (pig dance) which was composed by the great saint himself, Mewang while the festival is concluded by the Pholay Molay cham.

10th – 13th


Gangtey Tsechu
v Gangtey Goenpa

Held at Gangtey Goenpa in Phobjikha valley – the winter roosting ground of the migratory and rare black-necked cranes. Two days of sacred masked dances lead up to the Nguedup Langwa (receiving of spiritual wisdom/ power) which is a special blessing ritual for the people.

10th – 13th


Thangbi Mani
v Thangbi Lhakhang

The main highlight of this festival is the Mewang ceremony (Fire Blessing) with Gomchens undergoing purification rituals while everyone jumps over purifying flames. To avoid misfortune in the year ahead jump through the fire three times and then enjoy masked and folk dances in the temple courtyard.

14th – 15th


Jhomalhari Mountain Festival
v Dangochong, Thimpu

Trek for three days to the base of Mt. Jhomolhari and join the local communities in a show of appreciation and reverence of the natural wonders they live with in their mountains, in particular, the elusive, iconic snow leopard.


November

1st


Coronation Day
v Bhutan National Holiday

The Anniversary of the Coronation of His Majesty the King every 1st November is a national public holiday in the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan.

TBD


Shingkhar Rabney
v Shingkhar Dechenling Lhakhang, Ura

The highlight of the festival is an old man, locally called Chath Dorji, who wears a brown wrinkled mask and blesses women with a wooden phallus.

5th – 9th


Jakar Tsechu
v Jakar Dzong, Choekhor, Bumthang

Jakar Dzong or “the Dzong of the white bird” is perched on a hill overlooking the Jakar Valley and has a fortified water tower for use when under seige. A main event in Bhutan the dances and festivities draw folk from far and wide.

6th – 8th


Chhukha Tsechu
v Chhuka Dzong, Bumthang

This lively local festival is blessed with the usual dancing and singing but also boasts a thongdrol (large tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche.

TBD


Ugyencholing Kangsel
v Ugyencholing Dzong, Tang, Bumthang

The Manor House has played a vital role in Bhutan’s history as it was founded by Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363), one of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism. The Ogyen Choling dynasty produced powerful leaders like Trongsa Penlops Tshokey Dorji and Dzongpon Ugyen Dorji. The festival here is an authentic affair and the house’s fascinating museum and sweet guesthouse are not to be missed.

8th


Dechenpu Tsechu
v Dechenpu Lhakhang, Thimpu

Dedicated to Gay Ngyen Jakpa Melen, a powerful guardian deity of Bhutan. Many traditional and classical dances such as Zhananga Cham (Dance of the Black Hats – a cult of sorcerers), Shazam Cham (Dance of the Stags who subdued the Wind god), and Nga Chamare are showcased by the Royal Academy of Performing Arts.

11th


Black Necked Crane Festival
v Gangtey Goenpa

Each year the deeply revered “auspicious harbingers of hope and prosperity”, throng throng karm or black-necked cranes, return from Tibet to winter in Bhutan. The festival celebrates their return and aims to generate awareness and understanding on the importance of conserving the endangered species. Peformances include folk songs and dances by school children and adults.

11th


Birth Anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck 4th King of Bhutan
v Bhutan National Holiday

His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck the 4th King of Bhutan was born on 11th November 1955. To mark this occasion every Dzongkhag in Bhutan will observe the day with various cultural programs and events.

13th – 16th


Jambay Lhakhang Drup
v Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

Jambey Lhakhang is one of the 108 temples built by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet in just one day in about the 7th century. The Jambay Lakhang Drup is a major event in Bumthang and amongst the chams/dances the Terchham (or Naked Dance) is performed as well as the Mewang, Macham, Ging Tsholing, Dramtse Ngacham and the Zhana Cham.

14th – 16th


Prakhar Duchoed
v Prakar Khakhang, Chumni, Bumthang

A three day village festival on the third night of which people have the opportunity to be blessed by a local diety.

19th


Descending Day of Lord Buddha (Lhabab Duchen)
v Bhutan National Holiday

Descending Day of Lord Buddha (Lhabab Duchen) is marked by a national public holiday in Bhutan. It occurs on the twenty-second day of the ninth month on the Buddhist calendar.

TBD


Sumthrang Kangsol
v Sumthrang Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang

Initiated by the founder of the 13th century monastery in the Ura valley, Nyoton Trulzhig Chojey (a great yogi) – the Sumthrang Taacham (Horse Dance) is a unique highlight of this festival.

TBD


Goenpoi Dromchoe
v Trongsa Dzong

The massive and spectaularly positioned Trongsa Dzong has long been the strategic lynchpin between east and west, controlling the flow of people, goods, news etc The Goenpoi Dromchoe is held within the walls of the dzong and draws of people from miles around.

TBD


Tang Namkhar Lhakhang Rabney
v Tang Namkhar Lhakhang, Tang, Bumthang

A three-day annual festival commemorating the founding of the Namkha Lhakhang by Lama Namkha Samdrup and for the future peace and prosperity of the community.

TBD


Trashigang Tsechu
v Trashigang Dzong

One of the biggest festivals in eastern Bhutan even brings in the nomadic Brokpa people from Merak and Sakteng high in the mountains with their distinctive style of dress and customs. Along with the usual performances two thongdrels (large tapestry) are unfurled, firstly of Guru Tshengye (the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche) and a second of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats – enlightened ones).


December

TBD


Pangkhar Choepa
v Pangkhar monastery Ura, Bumthang

The event marks the founding of the temple – legend has it that while the villagers worked on the construction of the temple during the day, after dark white langur monkeys took over and worked through the night.

12th


Jambay Lhakhang Singye Cham
v Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

Taking place at the renowned and revered 17th century Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang with the Lion Dance or Singaye Cham particlur to this festival.

12th – 14th


Nalakhar Tshechu
v Ngaa Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang

A small rural festival is held in the village of Nga Lhakhang or Nalakhar upriver from Jakar in Bumthang.

13th


Druk Wangyel Tshechu
v Dochula Pass, Thimpu

A unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or lay people in tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan and celebrates the sovereignty and the stability of the country. The dancers perform on a grass pass, against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountain range.

17th


Bhutan National Day
v Bhutan National Holiday

The Coronation of the 1st King of Bhutan (Ugyen Wangchuck the first Druk Gyalpo or Dragon King) was held on 17th December 1907 and since then the day is observed every year as the National Day of Bhutan with processions and events throughout the Kingdom.

TBD


Shinger Meto Choedpa
v Shinger Lhakhang, Ura, Bumthang

An intimate and authentic local festival held at Shinger Lhakhang (temple) in Ura, Bumthang about 50km from Jakar where most lodges are to be found.


F

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