In spring, Paro valley is even more charming, with willow branches decorated with bright green fuzz, and sprays of peach and apple blossoms lending magic. It is also time for the Paro Tsechu– among the most widely attended festivals in Bhutan, infused with colours and spirituality.
Here are our vignettes from the final day of the Paro Tsechu, which fell on 23rd March this year.
On the final day of the Paro Tsechu, the Guru Thongdrol (a gigantic scroll painting) is unfurled in the early hours of the morning, before daybreak. It is believed that the very sight of these most holy paintings, (created by stitching fabric in a method called applique) will liberate the viewer from bad karma.
The Thongdrol depicts Guru Padmasambhava, known in Bhutan as Guru Rinpoche. In the 8th century, this saint and tantric master is believed to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Tsechus, which fall on or around the 10th day of a month, honour Guru Rinpoche.
Devotees pay obeisance before the Guru Thongdrol. The Guru Thongdrol of Paro is believed to be the oldest in Bhutan, and said to have survived a fire that destroyed the Rinpung Dzong in 1906.
The Dzong of Paro is named ‘Rinpung’ which translates to ‘heap of jewels’. The seven-storey watchtower, the Ta Dzong, on the hill above the dzong, now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. A traditional bazam (cantilever bridge) leads to the Dzong from across the river. The Paro Tsechu is held in the courtyard of the Dzong, except for the final day.
A dancer plays the traditional lute (dramnyen), while performing the dramnyen dance, which tells the story of how the founder of Drukpa Kagyud defeated a demon.
A dancer performs the famous Wochupai Zhey at the Paro Tsechu. The elaborately choreographed vocal performance originates in the village of Wochu in Paro.
Scouts and community police volunteers help manage the crowd at the Tsechu.
A Drukair plane thunders across the sky above the Dzong.
The most intricate brocades, textiles, and jewellery are worn on this festival.
Another Guru Thongdrol was displayed inside the Dzong, to commemorate the three special events of this year- the birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey, the year of Guru Rinpoche, and the 400th anniversary of Zhabdrung’s arrival to Bhutan.
This little girl, dressed in her traditional best, inside the Paro Dzong.
The idyllic Paro valley
Kyishu Thara- the most intricate and beautiful of kira textile patterns.
A young attendee at the Paro tsechu
Offerings before the Guru Thongdrol
A volunteer from Clean Bhutan collects ensures that the sacred venue is free of litter.
A colourful crowd.
A monk carries away the costume and instruments from a dance.
The old and the new.
A sea of devotees.
Birds hover above the ground in a swarm.
Offerings made to the monks performing the prayer rituals at the tsechu.
The Paro Tsechu is hugely popular with tourists visiting Bhutan in spring.
The Paro Ta Dzong (seen in the background) housing the National Museum, was built to mimic the shape of a conch.
Monks carry an intricate Torma. These figures, made of flour and butter and then painted elaborately, are used as offerings.
Colours of peace and wisdom.
Butterlamps before the Guru Thongdrol.
A little break from prayers.
An Atsara at the Paro tsechu. Historians trace the word ‘Atsara’ to the sanskrit ‘acarya’ or a learned one. With connections to crazy wisdom, the Atsaras at Tsechus function as jesters, with scandalous antics that teach us to let go of inhibitions and hang-ups.
Incense, to purify the surroundings, and welcome the boddhisattvas among the devotees on this holy day.
Spirituality is a value that is instilled even in the very young in Bhutan.
This devotion, entwined in everyday life, is carried throughout the lives of the Bhutanese.
Kinley Gyaltshen (in blue) with his cousin brother. Kinley unfailingly attends the tsechu to continue a tradition of his own- this is where he gets to meet his King every year.
A flute player.
A DeSuup volunteer assists two elderly women at the Paro Dzong.
To watch the dances, and look upon the Guru is to be blessed.
The tsechu is also a picnic day for families.