Introduction to Religious Festivals, Ceremonies & Rituals in Bumthang

Almost each village in Bumthang has its religious festival and the date varies slightly in the Western calendar as Bhutanese follow the lunar calendar. Religious festivals either dedicated to Guru rinpoche (Padmasambhava), or to local saints and deities, have different names.

However they are characterised by prayers and songs, and in most cases by masked religious dances called cham. In Bumthang the performers are usually village men and women entertain the audience with folk songs and dances in betwen two religious dances. A fixed feature of these festivals are the atsara, the jokers, whose bawdy jokes, antics and blessing of women with a wooden phallus make the people roar with laughter.

During certain of these festivals a large banner which “liberates by sight” (thongdroel) is displayed while others may have a fire ceremony.