One of the biggest festivals is the Thimphu Tshechu, held in the capital city for three days starting from 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Before the actual tshechu that is being witnessed by thousands of people from the capital city and the nearby Dzongkhags, days and nights of prayers and rituals are conducted to invoke the gods.
It was first initiated by the 4th Desid, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867. It had only a few dances being performed and that too strictly by monks. These were the Zhana chham and the Zhana Nga chham (dances of the 21 black hats), Durdag (dance of the lords of the cremation ground), and the Tungam chham (dance of the terrifying deities).
Thimphu tshechu underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). The additions has added colour without compromising the spiritual significance. Mask dances like the Guru Tshengye (eight manifestations of Guru), Shaw shachi (dance of the stags) are enjoyed because they are like stage theater.
Equally important are the Atsaras, who are more than just mere clowns. The Atsaras are the dupthobs (acharyas), who provide protection. The dances and the jesting of the Atsaras are believed to have entranced the evil forces and prevented them from causing harm during tshechus. Modern Atsaras also perform short skits to disseminate health and social awareness messages.
To farmers, the tshechu is also seen as a break from the drudgery of farm life. It’s an occasion to enjoy, get blessed and pray for health and happiness. The festival lasts for three days.
Besides the annual three day tshechu, Thimphu also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu Dromchoe. The day long festival dates back to the 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The dromchoe is celebrated 3 days earlier to the Thimphu Tshechu.
The Dromchoe showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the protecting deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the dance ceremony.