A Whirling Spectacle of Tradition and People-Watching
Now that Bhutan has ended its historic isolation from the outside world, its colorful traditional festivals, called tshechus, are the perfect window from which to view its heritage. These festivals traditionally take place in the courtyards of the great dzongs – the fortified monasteries that remain the centers of religion, education, and local government in each district of the kingdom.
They are not staged for the benefit of visitors, who can consider themselves privileged witnesses to these events, which have remained unchanged for centuries.
The springtime celebration in Paro is the country’s best-known annual dance festival. Throngs of joyful Bhutanese townspeople in traditional woven robes gather from all over the valley, while dancers (monks or trained laymen) in magnificent masks and costumes take on the aspects of peaceful or wrathful deities, demons, and animals, reenacting the legends of Himalayan Buddhism in the Dragon Kingdom.
The dances, known as cham, are performed to bring blessings upon all onlookers, be they from across the valley or across the globe, to protect them against misfortune.