From time immemorial, Bhutan has been a favorite destination for tourists. Besides prosperity, Bhutan also is popular for its happiness quotient. Not only the scenic beauty but also the rich heritage attracts visitors to come to this country. In Bhutan, cultural tourism is a major travel sector contributor. However, most visitors come here to enjoy the scenic beauty, Enjoy the serenity of the place and relax. But for the heritage, you need to visit festivals and fairs. These events add to your amazing experience in the country of happiness.
Keeping the Traditions Alive
Bhutan is quite modern. They have adopted changes with generations. But, they have retained their past quite carefully. The old traditions are well exhibited across the whole landscape. There are festivals celebrated all around the year which exhibit Bhutan’s richness of traditions and culture. Furthermore, the government of Bhutan has introduced laws to save the charisma of the place. Subsequently, the indigenous culture and traditions, serenity, and natural flora and fauna have inspired lakhs of visitors to travel to this place.
Geology and Geography of Bhutan
Bhutan today is a well-known tourist destination. It lies in the eastern part of the Himalayas mountain range. It is a land sandwiched between China and Tibet in the north and India’s West Bengal to its south. Also, Sikkim to the west and Arunachal Pradesh to the east. The Bhutan kingdom occupies an area of 46500 km. There are three altitudinal zones visible in the Bhutan Kingdom. Specifically, the upper Himalayas to the north, the lower Himalayas combined with valleys at the center, and lower foothills in the south.
People and Language
Naming Bhutan does not signify any reason. It’s simply a nomenclature. Buddhist Philosopher Dharmakirti emphasized this fact. Strikingly, such a small country has almost twenty dialects. For monolingual people in big cities, it may appear bizarre. While creating a map of Bhutan it was found that Bhutan is topographically segregated. Moreover, their isolation overages such diversities can be noted. Knowing about a place will be possible from the cultivation of the past.
Early Days Buddhism in Bhutan
Oral works, written documents, and artifacts provide evidence that had a northern connection. However, a southern connection could not be established. Bhutan’s early connection with Tibet was evident. The contemporary scholar Tenzin Dorji affirmed the fact. According to him, there existed Tibetan Royal connection to the eastern part of Bhutan The Castle at Nyakhar which can be found on the eastern part of Bhutan provides Tibetan influence. Dorji added after the death of 7th Tibetan king Drigum Tampo, his son’s and Nayatri things became more prominent.
Later Days Buddhism in Bhutan
From the chronicles of the 1st Millenium, it is not evident about socio-political events in Bhutan. The scattered evidence does not clarify the actuality. Rather, it is more mythological. The emergence of the Bhutanese can be found in the second-millennium i.e.around the middle of the 17th century. The socio-political events were missing for the period. Nothing could be said comprehensively. Depending upon local folklore was the only option.
By the end of the seventeenth century, Bhutan appeared as a nation. The emergence was vastly due to the union of various socio-economic developments. The credit goes to Zhabdrung Ngwan Namgyal who initiated but it was a joint effort started by Padmasambhava back in the 8th century.
Trouble in the south front began. It was because British India settled in Cooch Behar in Bengal. The British wanted to extend its border connecting the Tista river on the west to the Dhansiri river that is flowing from Nagaland to the east. The British proposed to occupy fertile areas in the lower Himalayas ranging up to one to twenty miles. That erupted a major dispute within the civilians that erupted as a civil war.
End of Civil War
Bhutan’s conflicts didn’t end with the death of Jigme Namgyal death. However, things began to change with the rise of Ugyen Wangchuk the descendant took charge and with the power of leadership brought an amicable situation
The Bhutanese civilians were tired of external and internal changes. They were tired of the monotonous conflict with neighbors. But with the advent of Ugyen Wangchuck was welcomed. Moreover, by his shrewd politics and leadership, the socio-religious structure improved in Bhutan.
The Glorious Festivals and Fairs of Punakha
The most visited place in Bhutan is Punakha. Moreover, the chief of Bhutan Abbott Je Khenpo has his winter home there. An annual Punakha Drubchen festival is celebrated in February and is held with utmost pride and joy. It is held to rejoice in the victory of the Bhutanese over enemy neighbors Tibet. However, original army men from both sides don’t get involved in the warfare, the locals get disguised in soldier clothes and enact the war.
The Prime Important Festivals and Fairs At Trashigang
Among the festivals and fairs of Bhutan, the most unique is the Gomphu Kora Festival. This festival is celebrated in Trashigang in March. There is a legend you need to understand the significance of the festival. In brief, the festival depicts victory over evil. The word Gomphu means cave whereas kora means walking around an object. As per the legend, Guru Padmasambhava did penance in a cave for three days to ward off evil hiding in the cave in the 8th century. As a tribute to the Guru, a temple was built on the face of the mountain. Moreover, pilgrims walk around the temple and cave as part of their devotion.
Festivals and Fairs of Paro
The city of Paro hosts the most popular festivals in Bhutan. The deeds of Guru Rinpoche are celebrated in the Paro Tsechu festival. Normally it takes place in the fall of spring, which is in March. These festivals and fairs held in Paro are must-see events. Moreover, for exposing the glamorous heritage of the Bhutanese. Further, it may be said as a religious ceremony of thanksgiving to deities for blessings. The lamas and Layman’s dance performances in masks attract locals as well as visitors.
- The dance form Shinje Yabyum represents Durdog, the lord of death
- There are separate dance forms to represent lords of Cremation grounds
- From dramatize, the dance of drums was created
- As per the traditions of Paro Tsechu, dancing with black hats became popular.
The Festivals and Fairs of Sakteng Valley
Sakteng is a mesmerizing valley that is located 3000 meters above sea level. The localities are semi-nomadic and perform the most exciting festival to pray to God for his blessings. The locals called brokpas to stay close to a pristine valley and nature. Not only the festival offers a deeper insight into the locals but also their mesmerizing culture. Besides, the Brokpas are untouched. They have restored their centuries-old tradition. Moreover, the whole community attends the Festivals and Fairs for merrymaking, singing, dancing, and drinking Ara, a variety of local wine.
About the Festival
Traditional dress is worn for the occasion. The most popular Ache Lhamo dance form is presented. Besides, the rare yak dance also takes place during the ceremony. Mostly in June, the festival is held.
Festivals and Fairs of Haa Valley
The summer festival held at Haa valley is a must-see event if you visit Bhutan. If you are an enthusiast, want to know more about the heritage of Bhutan, the Haa summer festival would be the right choice for you. Not only the vibrant cultures are exhibited at the festivals and fairs, but also you get an opportunity to try local cuisines, drinks, sports, songs, dance, etc. Moreover, Haa’s scenic beauty is amazing. Additionally, you get an opportunity to participate in a photography contest if you are interested. Furthermore, the festival offers mountain biking facilities. The festival mostly happens in July.
The Festivals and Fairs in Merak Valley
Merak valley lies in the eastern part of Bhutan. The lush green ambiance of Merak valley is the venue where the festival Merak Tshechu is generally held. People from the Brokpas community assemble to celebrate their exorbitant tradition and culture. During the festival, only ingrown and made products are displayed in the Festivals and Fairs. You can explore the cultural background of Brokpas during the celebrations. The festival continues for three days.
Festivals and Fairs at Bumthang
- The Matsutake festival of Bhutan is considered a foodie’s paradise. This culturally eminent festival not only showcases the sustainability of mushroom harvesting but also spreads awareness about organic cultivation. For every visitor, there was a treat. Presentation of indigenous varieties of mushroom, and varieties of organic food. In the picturesque Ura valley, the Matsutake festival takes place in August. The festival is meant for tasting lip-smacking cuisines within beautiful nature. Furthermore, mushroom collection excursions are organized by the organizer of Festivals and Fairs that enable you to learn more about Ura people’s lifestyle.
- Another festival held in this area that glorifies Bhutan’s rich culture and heritage is Jambay Lhakhang Drup. A four-day long religious ceremony is a must-see festival in Bumthang. There are two reasons for the religious celebration. One for celebrating the good deeds of Guru Rinpoche. Secondly, remember the date for the establishment of the temple back in the 7th century. The temple is dedicated to Jambay Lhakhang. As a part of the celebration, the naked dance or fire dance is conducted.
Dances at Jambay Lhakhang Festivals
- At midnight the lamas and locals perform a naked dance. A form of masked dance where visitors are not allowed.
- Mewang is a form of dance that is performed as a ritual to pay homage to the fire God. Further, the unfertile women are blessed.
- Like any other Bhutanese festival, the Jambay Lhakhang also pays tribute to deities for their blessings of fortune.
Wangdue Phodrang’s Festivals and Fairs
Forming a gateway at the eastern part of Bhutan, Wangdue Phodrang is known for its annual festival Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu. Every year in October, the festival is celebrated with utmost joy and fun. The festival was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal around the 17th century. Since then religious and cultural festivals have been celebrated. Speeches like Lozey which are ornamentally written, and traditional songs portray proudness in existence. Besides, they also pay tribute to Guru Rinpoche for his good deeds. The dance performances at the Festivals and Fairs are dedicated to the deities for expressing thanks to them. The most favorite to tourists is the ox dance. Raksha Mancham is the favorite part of the festival. Unfurling Guru Tshengye Thongdrol calls an end to the ceremony.
Festivals and Fairs of Thimphu
The vibrant and rich heritage of Bhutan is showcased in the Festivals and Fairs of Thimphu Tshechu. A three-day extravaganza was held on 10 days from the 8th month of the Lunar calendar. The birthdate of Guru Rinpoche commences the ceremony Mostly in October The Thimphu Tshechu is not only a famous festival of Bhutan but also a practice to pray to God for blessings. Moreover, it is a mode of celebration to rejoice in the prosperity of the citizens. All locals attend the ceremony to pray day and night to invoke the Gods. The locals believe their attendance at the festival would earn them merit points.
About the Festival
- The lamas introduced a dance form, till today the locals perform it. To perform in the dance the locals wear fineries.
- To invoke the deities of tantric teachings the dances are performed.
- Some of the famous dance rituals are performed by the lay monks like Lord of cremation grounds, the mask dance, the 21 black hats, or the dance of terrifying deities.
Reasons to Visit Bhutan
The question may arise: why choose Bhutan to visit?
- Monasteries (Tiger nest monastery for example)
- Tshechus (the festivals)
- The Bhutanese fort called Dzong
- The Gross amount of happiness
- Unclimbed mountains
- The museums and monuments
- Unique artwork and paintings
- Variety of cuisines
- Interest in Buddhist culture and tradition
- Haven of Spirituality
Significance in Anthropology
Bhutan is a land of varieties of rich traditions and cultures. Most have been acquired from the ancient days of Tibet. So Buddhism has flourished as a universal religion in the city. Though modern in outlook, the government has contributed a lot to restore the beauty of nature and traditions spread over the demographics of the country. The Festivals and Fairs carry the evidence. It is a multilingual country and traditions are different in different areas. Visitors gather to participate in the festivals to gain further insight into Bhutan’s tradition. As you can see, the festivals happen over the year. The religious-hearted people of Bhutan are thankful to deities who blessed them for prosperity. A special mention is Ugyen Wangchuck, the leader who reformed Bhutan civilization.
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