Tshechus fall on the auspicious 10th day of a month, and are attended by devotees from across the country, ranging in age from the elderly to the very young, clad in their festive best in honour of the sacred event. The Chhams performed at Tshechus are moral vignettes or depict stories and teachings of Buddhist Masters and Saints. The dancers performing are elevated by their costumes, masks, and performance so that the deities they portray are believed to inhabit them in this state of meditation. For the Bhutanese, therefore, Tshechus are more than a cultural event– to behold the sacred dances is to be blessed.
The Thimphu Tshechu in 2015 was held from 23-25 September this collection of pictures from the three days capture the essence of the devotion and the beauty of this festival.
Thimphu Tshechu: Day 1
Zhana Nga Cham, or the Black Hat Dance, is among the most famous of the dances performed at the Thimphu Tshechu. The dancers wearing the black hats lead viewers to Dharma, manifesting compassionate wrath while infused with deep calm within. The drumbeats represent the Dharma.
An Atsara shows off his drawing skills.
A monk performing at the Thimphu Tshechu peeps from behind curtains.
A group of artists are among the spectators, taking the opportunity to capture the vibrant festival in paint and paper.
An Atsara shows the Audience one of the sketches made by a member of the artist group.
Others at the festival want to capture the festive colours photographically.
A dapper little boy dressed in his brocade best hangs out next to the sound system at the Tshechu.
The varicoloured hues of the spectators at the Thimphu Tshechu.
This little girl is all dressed up in her colourful kira, pretty necklaces, and that winning smile.
A scout volunteer helps manage the crowd at the Thimphu Tshechu.
A dancer performs Kyecham, an accompaniment dance, as part of the story of King Norzang.
The famous Phole- Moley dance is a comical play, with two princesses, two princes, an old couple, and two Atsaras.
An Atsara is being punished by the old man in the Phole Moley dance, for corrupting the Princesses while the Princes were at war.
A DeSuup stands in the crowd as rain begins to fall at the Tendrilthang.
A young trendsetter.
Thimphu Tshechu: Day 2
Spectators at the Thimphu Tshechu carry packed lunches, and enjoy a small picnic at the grounds as they watch the various dances with their families.
Sinjye Chogyel, the Lord of the Dead, is brought to the ground, to perform the Dance of the Judgement of the Dead- Raksha Marcham. The Lord of the Dead judges the actions of the dead, with black and white pebbles- the sinner is led to hell, while the virtuous is lead to heaven.
The rain brings out more colours in the crowd that refuses to budge.
An old man prostrates in the rain.
The ground may be too damp to sit on, but this crowd is not going anywhere.
The scenic location and festive clothes surely call for lots of photographs.
A scout volunteering at the Thimphu Tshechu assists an elderly woman through the crowd.
Bright umbrellas bloom from the crowd as the rain comes down.
A dancer wearing a lion mask.
Dancers at the Tshechu are elevated by their mask, costume and dance into a state of meditation, and the deities they depict are believed to inhabit them, blessing the viewers in the act of watching the Chhams.
Bhutan Broadcasting Channel shows the dances live across the country, so that those who cannot attend the Thimphu Tshechu in person have the opportunity to view them at home.
The terrifying Dre Nagchung, who drags sinners to hell, is briefly a spectator at the Thimphu Tshechu.
The deeply held regard for religion is a value that most children in Bhutan are brought up with.
A selfie stick has found its way to the Thimphu Tshechu!
The dances performed at the Tshechu represent divine visions, and many other religious and spiritual stories, and is a means to transmit the teachings of Dharma to the people through the arts.
Thimphu Tshechu: Day 3
Pazabs (warriors) perform the Pawo Mag Zing Cham.
The desire to lock something of the beauty of the Thimphu Tshechu in a photograph is irresistible.
A comfortable rug is the most sensible accessory for sitting long hours at the festival.
The Power Rangers are attending the Thimphu Tshechu, too.
The Tungam Cham dancers enter the ground. The extremely sacred dance features the ritual slaying of the enemies of Dharma, personifications of various evils.
Dancers clad in tiger skins perform Ging Tsholing Cham, to purify the grounds before the Guru Tshengye.
Something to sweeten the beauty of the Thimphu Tshechu even more.
The crowd at Tendril Thang, the venue for the Thimphu Tshechu.
Children make up a significant portion of the crowd of spectators at the Thimphu Tshechu.
Dancers from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts perform a traditional Zhungdra.
A warrior perfroms a dance, which was specially composed for the Dochula Tshechu.
Performed by soldiers, each dancer has a unique mask, and carries the sword and shield of a traditional warrior.
Dancers from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts perform “Menjong Druk Gi Gyalkhab”.