The Festival of Mask Dance – Paro Tshechu

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Suddenly I woke up from the sleep; I checked my watch, it was 5 in the morning. Shit! I am late. Within 5 minutes, I walk down from my hotel. Normally the city awakes little late. But today was an exception, on my way to Rinpong Dzong, I have seen many local people rushing towards the same destination. The day like today, comes only once in a year. Today is the fifth and last day of this unique and colourful Cham dance festival. It is the 2nd popular Tshechu festival in the country, it is Paro Tshechu. I am in Paro, Bhutan.

Rinpung Dzong in the Morning

Bhutan, a small country has a unique dual administrative system. Spirituality plays a great role, even in the administration of the country. As per Bhutanese believe, in 800 AD Guru Padmasamvava (popularly known as Guru Rimpoche); the founder of Bajrayana Buddhism, had rooted strong spiritual foundation in this small Himalayan kingdom.

Bhutan has a unique dual administrative system

At his time, this respected teacher subdued many demons and demigods with the power of his mediation and dance. On the remembrance of this great teacher, every 10th day of the lunar calendar, Bhutanese pays homage to the Guru with religious dance (Cham dance) and songs. This mask dance is known as Tshechu in Bhutan. For a layman like me Tshechu is a classic experience of colourful mask dances, acts and sweet songs.

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Paro City form Rinpung Dzong

Paro the ‘Airport city’ is 2nd popular city of the country. Even the basic entry permit, allows to travel Paro. From Thimphu, Paro is approx 2 hours and the road is simply awesome. I was here for 2 days; I had visited the famous Taktsang Monastery (popularly known as the tiger’s nest Monastery), learned Bhutanese religion and culture from National Museum, explored the city areas and enjoyed unique Tshechu.

Cham Dance-Paro Tshechu
Cham Dance at Paro Tshechu

But the last day was most thrilling for me. As per tradition, on the last day of Thechu, the ‘Guru Thengy’ or a hundreds of years old Thanka (religious penting on silk) pottering Guru Rimpoche will be displayed 3 am to 7 am. As per local belief, seeing this great Thanka will bring merit to their spiritual life. Thus, in this holy day, local people even travel from different districts only to witness and pray the great master.

The grThanka-of-Gur-Rimpoche
The great Thanka of Guru Rimpoche

Finally, I reached to the Rinpong Dzong. The Tshechu ground had completely changed. A two-story building like big and old Thanka was hanging in front of me. Monks were chanting mantras, at least 100 butter lamps were sparkling. The ambience was truly mystical. Slowly glorious sun started waking up. Golden rays were started pouring in to ground.

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Paro Tshechu ground

I was about to leave the ground, I had planned to visit Haa on the same day. Suddenly, I heard an announcement, announcer requesting everyone not to take pictures as the King of Bhutan in coming on the ground. Wow, this was the 1st time I will be witnessing the King of Bhutan. While travelling in the country, I have seen unconditional love and respect of the people for the King. The king and his minister council came together to homage Guru Padmasamvaba. I was unable to click any photographs of his majesty the King.

Prime Minister of Bhutan Mr. Tshering Tobgay at Paro Tshechu

It was unexpected and a unique experience for me. I wanted to spend some more time on the ground. But, I had to leave to travel Haa – another beautiful valley of Bhutan.

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