Bhutan 11—Another Festival

Punakha is blessed, this month, with back-to-back festivals. Immediately upon the completion of the Drupchen  celebration, we embark upon the Tshechu Festival. (I’m trying not to say ‘gesundheit‘; fortunately, we don’t have to refer to it by name). This seems to be a more serious, formal affair, and we are urged to wear traditional Bhutanese finery to show our respect. Now, isn’t that a photo op?

When we approach the dzong, there’s a guy in sacred robes singing at the edge of the parking lot–okay, busking, maybe. I feel an immediate rapport. A musician, seems to be some kind of shaman, just about my age. This is me, living another life, I think. I wish I could spend more time with him.

(Turn up the sound!)

The crowd is indeed dressed to the nines for this. I enjoy hanging out in the shade of the gateway to people-watch.

bridge gate
Celebrants passing through the gate

Inside the dzong, the courtyard has been decorated much more extensively than yesterday. Even more imposing: the entire “upstage” wall is lined with important-looking lamas (indicated by the orange robes; monks wear maroon). They must have assembled from some distance to witness (supervise? bless? enjoy? I don’t know) the festivities. This must be a serious business, indeed. And the yellow-robed figure in the hut is clearly a surrogate for the king, no less.

There is nothing of the rowdiness we saw in the warrior’s dance the day before. This is clearly a ritual dance, with an important symbolic meaning. I don’t know what, exactly, but…

The next sequence depicts two teams of archers. I pasted together three short clips.

Then there is a change of mood.  The dancers obviously are depicting farmers, but as soon as they start, the lamas and “king” file out. Are farmers too low-class for the lamas to bother with? Is this a break from the formal ritual, thrown in for variety? Don’t know.

The ritual goes on for hours; our attention flags after a while. On to the next adventure.

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