Trongsa Tshechu


The festival takes place in Trongsa Choekhor Rabtentse Dzong, which is located on a spur above the gorge of the Mangdechu and the Truenpangchu in the main town of Trongsa, which falls under Nubi gewog of Trongsa district.


The Tshechu of Bhutan specifically honors Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and celebrates his deeds through the performance of sacred dances. Since Guru Rinpoche was a fully enlightened being, he is extremely important in Bhutan and it is through his teachings that Bhutanese devotees are shown the true and fast path to enlightenment. These dances assist in cultivating faith and understanding of the Guru’s deeds, and as such both honor and educate the attendees.

Before leaving the earthly realm, Guru Rinpoche promised that he would return on the 10th day of the each month in the Bhutanese lunar calendar. This vow is reflected in a prayer which clearly states: “I will visit in real form on the 10th day of each waxing month.” For this reason, the word Tshechu (tshes bcu), which means ‘tenth day’, is considered a very auspicious day.

Every monastery in Bhutan observes this festival, which celebrates the arrival of Guru Rinpoche to Bhutan in the 8th century, a mark of triumph of Buddhism over “darkness.” It is held in spring and autumn seasons according to the Bhutanese calendar and masked dances are a popular feature along with the exposition of a very large religious painting, or thangka (thang ka) on cloth of Guru Rinpoche and other figures called the thongdrel (mthong grol).

In 1768, the 3rd Trongsa Penlop Zhidar and the 10th Je Khenpo Panchen Tenzin Chogyel established a monastic community of around 50 monks at the dzong. The five-day festival known as the Trongsa Tshechu is one of the great festivals of Bhutan.


Trongsa Tshechu is held annually for five days between 8th and 12th of the eleven lunar month in the northern courtyard of the temple during December or January.

The first day is rehearsal of mask dances, religious music played by long trumps, dungchen (dung chen) and oboes, jaling (rgya gling). The mask dances include those performed by monks and ones performed by lay people.

On the second day there are series of dances for the entertainment of the public, to drive away bad spirits and to bless the people and the location. The dances of the second day include:

  • Gelong gi Cham (dge slong gi ‘cham) – monk dances

Shinje Cham (shin rje ‘cham) – Yamantaka Dance
Zhana Nga Cham (zhwa nag rnga ‘cham) – Black-Hat Dance with drums

  • Bod Cham (‘bod ‘cham) – laymen dances

Drametse Nga Cham (dgra med rtse rnga ‘cham) – Drum Dance of Drametse
Peling Ging Sum Cham (pad gling ging gsum ‘cham) – Dance of the tree kind of Ging according to Pema Lingpa
Nyulema Cham (myu li ma ‘cham) – Malevolent Spirit Dance
Kye Cham (skye ‘cham) – Farewell/ accompaniement Dance
Pholay Molay (pho legs mo legs) – Dance of Noble Men and Charming Ladies

Shaw Sha Khi (shaw sha khyi) – Hound and Stag Dance  

As on the second day, the third day also features a number of dances. The dances of the 3rd day include:

  • Gelong gi Cham (dge slong gi ‘cham) – monk dances

Durdag Cham (dur bdag ‘cham)- Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Ground
Tungam Cham (stung rngam ‘cham) – Wrathful Dance

  • Bod Cham (‘bod ‘cham) – laymen dances

Raksha Langgo Cham (rak sha glang mgo ‘cham) – Dance of the Animals headed attendants
Raksha Mangcham (rak sha dmang ‘cham) – Dance of the judgment and the bardo

On the fourth day, the dances performed are:

  • Gelong gi Cham (dge slong gi ‘cham) – monk dances

Guru Tshengye Cham (guru tshan brgyad ‘cham) – Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche
Rig Ma Chudru (rigs ma bcu drug) – Dance of the Sixteen Dakinis

  • Bod Cham (‘bod ‘cham) – laymen dances

Shazam Cham (sha zam ‘cham) – Stag Dance
Durdag (dur bdag) – Dance of the Lords of the Cremation
Ging Tshogling Cham (ging tshogs gling ‘cham) – Dance of the wrathful deities and the Ging
Acho Dang Phento Cham (a co dang phan no’i ‘cham) Jesters act
Atsara gi Lochoe (a tsa ra gis lo chos) – mock ritual by the jesters
Tashi Monlam (bkra shis smon lam), performed by the dancers from the district administration

On the last day of the Trongsa Tshechu, the fifth day, the festival concludes with dances and the display of a thangka. Dances performed include Pacham (dpa’ ‘cham), the Dance of the Heroes, Dramnyen Choe Zhe (sgra snyan mchod rje ‘cham), the Religious Dance with the lute, and Zhe Zheng Pem Cham (bzhengs zhig pdmo’i ‘cham). The huge banner (thangka), called Thongdrel (liberation and blessings at the sight), is unfurled for public veneration. This conclusion of the festival is a sight which can easily be considered the highlight of the Trongsa Tshechu.

Informants: Lam Neten Wangchuk, Trongsa Dzong; Ap Nado, Shopkeeper, Drangzhi village, 2013

Researcher / Photographer
Sangay Phuntsho
Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, RUB

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