CANDACE CASEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Bhutan Spring Festival, Paro
The Paro Tshechu is the most popular religious festival drawing the largest number of Bhutanese together to offer them the opportunity to meet and mingle as they enjoy themselves in their finest attire after a year's hard work on the farm.
Among the different events, are dances in honor of Padmasambhava, known as the tsechu, are held at the historical Punajha Dzong, (called the dromche) in Paro in the Spring. The dancers reenact numerous stories written about the life of Padmasambhava, (also known as Rimpoche, the eighth century Buddhist teacher) performed to subdue demons who are obstructing the spread of Buddhism. The dances are performed by monks as well as lay people taking on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals
The highlight of the tsechu takes place on the final day of the festival with the unraveling of one of the biggest Thongdrel (also known as a Thongka). Beginning before dawn, long prayer rituals are held and when completed the massive hand-sewn silk Thongdrel is displayed for a few hours during which time villagers line up to receive a blessing. Before the sun can set on the Thongdrel, it is lowered and rolled up carefully by the monks who carry the massive piece over their shoulders in a long procession back into the monastery.
Though there have been a few modern adaptations introduced to Bhutan in recent years, where television and the internet have only come on board within the last few years, the religious festivals have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. With Bhutan’s deep-seated commitment to tradition, they may yet be preserved for generations to come.