What does Punakha Tshechu celebrate? Established in 2005, Punakha Tschechu is a celebration of Buddhist teachings, held in honour of Guru Rinpoche. It is staged immediately after the much older Punakha Drubchen festival, which features a recreation of a historic battle, so visitors may wish to time their holiday to Bhutan to experience both events.
What happens during Punakha Tshechu? Activities centre on the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan’s second oldest and second largest dzong monastery. Locals attend, clad in colourful traditional clothing – men typically sporting a knee-length robe called a gho, and women in an ankle-length dress called a kira. Carefully choreographed dances (chams), performed by masked folk dancers and monks alike, depict various important moments in Guru Rinpoche’s life and teachings. The highlight of the last day of the festival – as with most tshechus – is the unravelling of a large thangka tapestry of Guru Rinpoche.
Where is Punakha Tshechu held? The festival is held in Punakha, the former capital city of Bhutan. The 17th-century Punakha Dzong monastery – one of Bhutan’s largest dzongs – is undoubtedly the town’s main attraction. Other places of interest include the 14th-century monastery of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, staging ground of a legendary battle between a monk and a demon; and a number of pretty temples, notably Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. Nearby, the village of Ritsha offers rustic charm, while Jigme Dorji, Bhutan’s second-largest national park, promises natural splendour – and hosts its own low-key event, the Takin Festival, held in honour of the rare, ox-like takin that lives there.
When is Punakha Tshechu? Between February and March. The specific date varies each year based on Bhutan’s lunar calendar.
How long does Punakha Tshechu last? Three days.
Other Bhutan festivals of note
Black-necked Crane Festival