Tshechu literally means the tenth day of the tenth month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar. It is the time of the year when the Dzongs and temples come to life with the ubiquitous masked dances. The figure central to these sacred festivals is Guru Padmasambhava.
Guru Padmasambhava, or Guru Rimpoche, as he is more popular known in the Himalayan regions, was the progenitor of the Tantric school of Buddhism, also called Nyingma Buddhism. Therefore, these Tshechus which are dedicated to this tantric master are celebrated for three to five days, depending on the location. Generally speaking, a Dromchoe always precedes the tshechu by a couple of days. Dromchoes are esoteric mask dances dedicated to the protecting deities of Bhutan. The dances are spiritually very significant so they are always performed by the monks who are senior members of the clergy.
The crowning highlight in most of the tshechus is the viewing of the Thongdrel, a large and sacred banner. Thongdrel is a term that translates as liberation(drel) upon sight(thong). The moment of unveiling the throndrel is shrouded in hushed reverence as the onlookers make silent prayers and aspirations. It is a widely accepted spiritual belief of the people that the display of such giant paintings will permeate lots of merits and enable them to transcend the physical and mental states of suffering. Tshechus are known for being raucous, joyous affairs but they are also holy spiritual events with attendees gaining merit for the next life. They are get-away moments for the people: the Dzongs come to life with a kaleidoscope of colours as valley dwellers and townsfolk dress in their finest clothes and join together to revel, reunite, and reaffirm their faith in life. Each dances has its own spiritual importance and can be performed by monks or village elders dressed in bright costumes.
Note to visitors: Where possible, festival dates have been made after conforming/confirming with the Tourism Council of Bhutan; but in some areas, especially outside of the Western Bhutan, dates are highly tentative and can change without notice.