In a country that measures human development through happiness, it is obvious that the event calendar would also be a little different. Perched high in the mountains, lies the tiny nation of Bhutan. Famous for its beating prayer flags, cliff-top monasteries, and soaring mountains, Bhutan is also the stage for some of the most vibrant and unique religious festivals in the world. These festivals play a very integral part in forging Bhutan’s identity in the world map as a tourist hotspot. With festivals scheduled throughout the calendar year, we have listed out some significance of these unique festivals.
Festivals play a tremendous role in preserving Bhutan’s unique culture and traditions. Religious festivals in Bhutan are known as tshechus. Even today, the ancient Vajrayana religion and its traditions are deeply ingrained in Bhutanese society. With monasteries and dzongs dating back to couple of centuries, the significance of these festivals is elevated even more. Different intricate rituals and rites carried out during these festivals bolster the teachings of Vajrayana religion deeply.
The festivals are a means from citizens from Bhutan’s remote communities to come together and celebrate, socialize, and pray. With worshippers and devotees traveling many hundreds of kilometers from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts), the festivals are a bonding and unifying force. To ordinary Bhutanese citizens, tshechus are seen as a chance to take a well-deserved break from their everyday lives and indulge in country-wide celebrations.
Over the course of history, Bhutan has been badly impacted and also successfully defended several attacks of invasion from Tibet in north and India in south. Mainly through strategical intelligence and well-planned defense, Bhutan has also been victorious on many occasions. Some festivals celebrate Bhutan’s historical glory, like the Punkaha Festival that commemorate Bhutanese victory over Tibetan forces which invaded Bhutan multiple time during the 17th century. The festival centers on a dramatic recreation of a scene from the battle.
Other than the surreal natural beauty, the rich and stunning culture and traditions of Bhutan are a major attraction for tourists all over the world. Majority of tourists visiting Bhutan plan their trip around one of the famous festivals. Mesmerizing fire rituals and masked dances are bound to leave visitors in awe. In this way, festivals play a significant role in drawing tourists and bolstering the country’s already throbbing tourism industry. And given that tourism is the main source of revenue in Bhutan, it ultimately helps to lift the country’s economic status.
What’s even more impressive about the Bhutanese festivals is that they are not only limited to celebrate the region and the country’s legacy. Today, many of these festivals and dances are interspersed with short skits relaying public health and social awareness messages to spectators. In this way, messages containing crucial importance are relayed to general public very easily and effectively. Since it is also comprehendible by the Bhutan’s mostly illiterate older population, the effectiveness of these skits are very high in contribution towards a more healthy and enlightened society.