Festival Tours


Jampa Lhakhang Drub

Jampa lhakhang is located in Bumthang and is situated on the way to the Kurjie Lhakhang. It’s a ten minutes drive to the temple from the Chamkhar town.

Jampa Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom. It was founded by Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King, in the 7th century AD.  The king was destined to build 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness that was residing in the Himalayas. The temple is one of the two of the 108 built in Bhutan. The other is the Kichu lhakhang in Paro, believed to have been built on the same day.

Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang, renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.

The first king of Bhutan,  Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra- Wheel of Time) inside the temple, to commemorate his victory over his rivals, Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu, after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Chorten lhakhang.

The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya), from whose name the present name of the temple is derived.

The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887. Here, one of the most spectacular festivals is hosted called Jambay lhakhang Drup that lasts for five days beginning from 22nd October till the 26th. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritual together with the naked dance.Kurje Lhakhang Festival

The temple is located at Kurje in the Chokhor valley in Bumthang district. It is 15 minutes drive from Chamkhar town.

The history of the temples at Kurje is associated with Sindhu Raja and Guru Rinpoche. Sindhu Raja invited Guru Rinpoche from Nepal to Bhutan. Upon invitation, Guru Rinpoche visited Bumthang and meditated in a cave that resembled a pile of vajras (dorjis). After subduing the evil spirits and demons, imprints of the Guru Rinpoche’s body remained. Thereafter, the name came to be known as Kurje meaning-imprint of the body. The present place of the Lhakhang remains as a blessed and historical site.

There are three main temples at Kurje. The oldest temple was constructed by the Minjur Tenpa in 1652 on the site where Guru Rinpoche meditated when he was serving as the first Trongsa Penlop (Governor of Trongsa).

The second temple was founded by Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck in 1900 while serving as the 13th Trongsa Penlop.  This temple is the most sacred as it was built in the place where Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint.

The third temple was built in the 1990s. It was sponsored by the Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. It houses the images of Guru Rinpoche, King Thrisong Detsen and Pandit Santarakshita and the Sixteen arhats or the Siddhis.

In front of the temples are Chortens dedicated to the first three kings of Bhutan.

Kurje festival is an important festival for local people of Bumthang and also for the rest of the Bhutanese. Many tourists and Bhutanese come together to witness the colorful festival for blessing and appreciation of the different mask dances. One will not only get the blessings by witnessing the age old mask dances and traditional Bhutanese dances but also enjoy this unique culture while also enjoying the beauty of Bhutan’s spritual district.

Lhuentse Festival

Lhuenste is one of the easternmost districts in Bhutan that borders with the autonomous region of Tibet. It is the ancestral home of our Kings and hosts a number of important and sacred monuments. The most important amongst others is the Dzong that sits majestically on a ridge overlooking the Kurichu river. A small hermitage and a temple was built in 1552 by Ngagi Wangchuk, and later enlarged into its present status by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal.

Almost every village in Lhuenste boasts of festivals that are unique to other communities in Bhutan. Some notable festivals are the Cha and the Ha festivals that are celebrated to honor the deities and avert misfortunes. However, the important festival where people congregate in large numbers is the annual three day festival. The festival is normally celebrated in the month of November and besides the tshechus and the masked dances, one can also receive blessings from some of the important relics that is publicly displayed. The other aspect of the tshechu is the colourful attire of Kushithara that Lhuentse is famous for. One can come across various patterns of Kira and rich ornaments that are displayed.

Merak Festival

Merak valley in eastern Bhutan under Trashigang Dzongkhag is a unique valley inhabited by a semi-nomadic people known as the Brokpas. Situated at the height of 3000 meters, the valley remains untouched by the influence of the outside world. Living close to nature in the pristine wilderness, the Brokpas sustain through yak rearing and animal husbandry. Farming is virtually non-existent, and bartering is still the norm of economy amongst the Brokpas. They barter their Yak products for food grains and other daily necessities with the neighbouring Tshanglas.

Their attire is also unique all woven out of Yak hair and sheep wool.  Their culture is also different where a single woman can marry more than one husband. In fact it is a common norm amongst the Brokpa women to marry all the brothers in a family. They are also fun loving and enjoy merry making with lots of festivities. Indeed, they love music and dance and attending tshechus.

The Merak tshechu that is organized annually for three days at the Merak Lhakhang situated just next to the village provides the Brokpas with the much needed respite from their daily cattle herding routine. Beside the dances that are performed throughout the Dzongs and Lhakhangs, the Brokpas also feature their unique dances known as Ache Lhamo and the Yak dance. Both these dances are exclusive to the Brokpas and have drawn a lot of visitors to witness them.

Paro Festival

The Paro tsechu in spring is a major attraction in Paro district. People come from neighbouring districts to participate in the festivity. On the final day, the best time to go is early in the morning as the monks of the Paro Dzong prepare to display a giant appliqué thangkha, the Guru Throngdel, inside the dzong.

Day 1: (inside the dzong)

Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)

Bodhisattva Manjusri – representing the wisdom of all Buddhas – takes on the appearance of the terrifying Lord of Death (Shinje). His wrathful buffalo face guards the four continents.

Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)

A dance that takes place in cremation grounds. The dancers wear skull masks and represent protectors of the religion who live in the eight cremation grounds on the periphery of the symbolic Mt. Sumeru.

The Black Hat Dance (Shanag)

The black hat dancers assume the role of yogis with the power to subdue and create life. The dancers wear brocade robes, wide brimmed black hats and aprons with the face of a protective deity. This is an important dance that is also used in purification ceremonies during the construction of dzongs, temples, chortens.

Dance of the Drum from Dramitse (Dramitse Ngacham)

A dance inspired in meditation. The dance is a vision of Guru Rinpoche and his celestial palace, Zangdopelri. Here, Guru’s attendants are transformed into hundreds of peaceful and terrifying deities. The dance originated in Dramitse Monastery in eastern Bhutan and is considered a Bhutanese heritage.

Dance of the Eight Kinds of Spirits (Degye)

A dance of the gods of the three worlds (sky, earth, underground). The gods protect the doctrines of the Buddha and subdue the spirits who make the world unhappy. Endless happiness is recovered. The dance is performed by the gods (believed to be incarnated in the dancers themselves) to renew faith and wisdom.

Religious song (Chhoeshay)

This commemorates the opening of the gateway to the pilgrimage site of Tsari in eastern Tibet by the founder of the Drukpa School of Buddhism, Tsangpa Jarey.

Day 2: (outside the dzong)

Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)

Bodhisattva Manjusri – representing the wisdom of all Buddhas – takes on the appearance of the terrifying Lord of Death (Shinje). His wrathful buffalo face guards the four continents.

Dance of the Black Hats with drums (Shanag Nga Cham)

A dance to signify the victory of religion over enemies. The sound of the drum represents religion itself.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with sticks (Gingsum)

A dance signifying the subjugation of demons that are obstacles to religions. It takes place in Zangtopelri, the heavenly palace of Guru Rinpoche.

Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)

A dance that takes place in cremation grounds. The dancers wear skull masks and represent protectors of the religion who live in the eight cremation grounds on the periphery of the symbolic Mt. Sumeru.

Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with drums (Driging)

After the demons are vanquished, the gings with the drums dance with happiness. They beat the drums of religion and the dance is performed to bring good luck to all beings and to wish them happiness. This dance brings blessings to all who watch it.

Dance of the Stag and the Hounds (Shawa Shachi) – 1st part

The dance tells a favourite tale of Milerepa who converts a hunter to Buddhism.

Day 3: Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)

A dance that takes place in cremation grounds. The dancers wear skull masks and represent protectors of the religion who live in the eight cremation grounds on the periphery of the symbolic Mt. Sumeru.

Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Tungam)

Dressed in beautiful brocade and terrifying masks, this is a deeply symbolic dance where a sacrificial murder is performed. Guru Rinpoche appears in a wrathful manifestation to save the world. The dance is meant to show all beings the way to salvation.

Dance of the Heroes with six kinds of ornaments (Guan Drug Pawo)

The heroes hold six ornaments – five rings of bone ornaments and a small drum and bell in their hands. By their gestures and the sound of their melodies, the heroes lead sentient beings from the wheel of reincarnation along the path of liberation.

Kyecham is an accompanying dance to the next dance. The kyecham dancers wear knee-length yellow skirts, and animal masks.

Dance of the Noblemen and Ladies (Pholeg Moleg)

A comical play that depicts the life of King Norzang. The play is full of bawdy and rustic humour as two princes and two princesses, and old couple and clowns enact a story of misbehaviour, deceit, and mistrust. The story ends happily with the princes marrying the princesses and reconciliation takes place as a lesson to life.

Dance of the Stag and the Hounds – 2nd part

This is a conclusion of the dance began on the second day. The saint Milarepa appears in a long white dress and converts the dogs, stag and the hunter with a song. The conversion is symbolised by the hunter and his dogs jumping a rope.

Day 4:

Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)

Bodhisattva Manjusri – representing the wisdom of all Buddhas – takes on the appearance of the terrifying Lord of Death (Shinje). His wrathful buffalo face guards the four continents.

Dance of the Four Stags (Sha Tsam)

A dance that depicts Guru Rinpoche subduing the God of Wind who is believed to have created unhappiness on earth. Dancers dress as stags in yellow knee length dress and masks of the deer. The stag represents the mount of the God.

Dance of the Judgement of the Dead (Raksha Mangcham)

This dance is based on the Bardo (Book of the Dead). When beings die they wander in an intermediate state known as the bardo. They cross the bardo to meet their judgement by the Lord of Death. Also present is the white god and black demon who have been with every being from birth. The dance is like a play which depicts the judgement of a sinner and a virtuous man who goes to heaven.  The rakshas are the helpers of the Lord of Death.

Dance of the Drums from Dramitse (Dramitse Nga Cham)

A dance inspired in meditation. The dance is a vision of Guru Rinpoche and his celestial palace, Zangdopelri. Here, Guru’s attendants are transformed into hundreds of peaceful and terrifying deities. The dance originated in Dramitse Monastery in eastern Bhutan and is considered a Bhutanese heritage.

Day 5:

The great thangkha (thongdrel) is shown early in the morning followed by the Shugdrel ceremony.

Dance of the Heroes (Pacham)

A dance to lead believers in the human world into the presence of Guru Rinpoche.

Dance of the Ging and Tsholing

Guru Rinpoche initiated this dance during the consecration of the ancient Samye Monastery in Tibet. The dance is a purification ceremony. People whistle to chase away bad spirits. The ging, dressed in orange skirts and a terrifying mask, use their drumsticks to hit everyone on the head to drive out impurity. The tsolingrepresent protectors of the religion and are dressed in long colourful dresses and terrifying masks.

Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Tshen Gye)

This dance is one of the highlights for Buddhist practitioners. The Guru appears in eight different forms in a dance that is also a play.

Dance of the Sixteen Fairies

After all eight manifestations appear, 16 fairies sing and perform two dances in front of the Guru. The fairies are Goddesses of Offerings who perform a dance to bring happiness. They are dressed in brocade dresses with carved bone ornaments. After these final songs, the manifestations go out in a long procession.

Religious Song (Chhoeshay)

This commemorates the opening of the gateway to the pilgrimage site of Tsari in eastern Tibet by the founder of the Drukpa School of Buddhism, Tsangpa Jarey.

Pema Gatshel Festival

Pema Gatshel is one of the six districts in eastern Bhutan and one of the newly established Districts. Untill its establishment as an independent District, Pema Gatshel was administered from Mongar, Trashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar districts. It borders Trashigang to its north, Samdrup Jongkhar to its south and Mongar to its east. Its major inhabitants are the Tshanglas who are found living on agriculture and animal husbandry.

The district is known for numerous festivals and folk songs. The most notable folk song is the Ausa, a song that is sung during departures of family members, friends and relatives. Since the construction of the dzong in the early 1980’s, they also celebrate the annual festival over a three day period.

The Mask Dances known as Cham are performed during the three day festival. Cham are believed to bring blessings upon the spectators and teach them the teachings of the Buddhist dharma. Cham are also believed to provide protection from misfortune and exorcise evil influences. The festival is a religious ceremony and it is believed one gains merit by attending it. It is also a yearly social gathering where people from all walks of life travel great distances to be a part of it. The people rejoice together, dressed in their finest clothing.

Punakha Festival

Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan and it is the winter home of Chief Abbot of Bhutan, the Je Khenpo. Punakha played great importance in the history of Bhutan during the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world.

In 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by the Tibetan force to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani during which Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal defeated the Tibetan army and to commemorate the victory he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen also known as Puna Drubchen became the annual festival of Punakha district. In addition to Punakha Drubchen in 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley on the request made by Punakha District Administration and people for upholding the Buddhist teachings and keeping alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpochhe.

Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival due to a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dressed in battle gear showcase a battle scene of this distant past recalling the days when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimpu came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces out of the country ushering in a new-found internal peace and stability.

Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich cultural and tradition but it also is also an event where devout Buddhists has a place and time for prayer and pilgrimage. These festivals also reflect the richness of everything that is Bhutanese and are very special in the eyes and hearts of tourists who visit.

Sakten Festival

Sakten valley in eastern Bhutan under Trashigang Dzongkhag is another valley inhabited by a semi-nomadic people known as the Brokpas. Situated at the height of above 3000 meters, the valley remains untouched by the influence of the outside world. Living close to nature in the pristine wilderness, the Brokpas sustain through yak rearing and animal husbandry and are fun loving people.

The Sakten tshechu is organized annually for three days at the Sakten Lhakhang situated just next to the village. The tshechu provides the Brokpas with the much needed time to entertain themselves and drown in some sort of spirituality. They also witness the Yak dance and the Ache Lhamo dances besides the usual mask dances. One can come across the Brokpas dressed in their finery and enjoying the revelry with rounds of ara (local wine) being served.

Takin  Festival

Takin Festival will be held every year in Gasa to showcase Bhutan’s rich natural heritage, raise awareness on conservation of biodiversity, create avenues and strive towards financial sustainability of the park management, provide off-season ecotourism opportunities to the tourism sector, and provide supplemental income opportunities to the park residents, specifically the upland communities.

Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) is the second largest among the ten natural preserves in the country. It is closest to the country’s capital, Thimphu, and to the country’s international airport at Paro. The park spans across five dzongkhags of which almost all of Gasa Dzongkhag is encompassed. Offering spectacular Himalayan vistas of awe-inspiring scenic beauties and enchanted mix of cultural and wildlife safaris, JDNP is considered a conservation heritage of nature and culture in harmony.

Gasa Dzongkhag is located in the north western part of Bhutan. It is the least populated district in the country, but the richest in terms of medicinal plants and temperate biodiversity. The district is famous for having many hot springs and medicinal baths. It is also declared as an organic district. Gasa is also well known for the popular Bhutanese folklore of Gasa Lamai Singye and Changyul Bhumoi Galem which depicts the tragic love story equivalent to that of the famous Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet.  Gasa Lamai Singye, who is Bhutanese equivalent of Romeo, was serving as a servant to the abode of monastic body in Gasa when Galem (equivalent of Juliet) was helping her parents with farm works in her village of Changyuel in Punakha. The story ended with Galem committing suicide when her parents vehemently objected to her idea of marrying Singye.

During the Takin Fair in Gasa, watch skilled nomadic herders as they weave tents, blankets, rugs and bags from raw material culled by shearing yaks. You might also like the demonstrations of local cane work tradition, which includes the much photographed conical hats that are a specialty of the region. Enjoy rich meals derived from yak meat and dairy, and try chugos, the dried and hardened cubes of yak cheese that are a popular snack. Learn about some of the environmental issues gripping the region and the world from the Wildlife. Conservation Division’s information booth, or catch a high altitude screening of a documentary film about the Takins and the issues undermining their survival and habitat. Become the natural observer of Bhutan’s little-known national animal at Gathana (where the tourist will be making short treks from Damji under Gasa Dzongkhag) as you track their salt licks and watch their mating and social behavior. Enjoy a medicinal hot   spring bath in Gasa.

The Takin Festival will be held from 7th – 9th January 2012. Here is the detail Itinerary for Takin Festival 2012.

Thimphu Festival

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.

Thimphu Dromchoe

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.

Trashigang festival

Trashigang is the largest district in the country and the bastion of the Tshanglas, the aboriginal inhabitant of the district. The dzong that sits majestically on a ridge overlooking the Dangmechu and the Gamrichu was built in 1651 and over the years has played crucial roles as the Administrative headquarter of the district. It also withstood some of the prominent Tibetan attacks that were launched in the 17thcentury from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.

While every village has their own tshechus to celebrate annually, however the highlight is the three day tshechu that is held in the dzong from the 7th to 11th of the tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar that corresponds to the month of December. The tshechu is witnessed by the Brokpas, a semi-nomadic community of Merak and Sakteng, the Khengpa community, and people from as far as Samdrup Jongkhar, Pema Gatshel and Trashi Yangtse.

On the 7thday, the monks take the thrue or the bath and on the 8th have their rehearsals. On the 9th day, the tshechu begins. On the 10th day is unfurled the thongdrol of Neten Chudrug (Sixteen Arhats) together with different mask dances. On the final day, the old thongdrel of Guru Tshengyed is displayed with Guru Tshengyed Chhams.

Wangdue Festival

The annual Wangduephodrang Tshechu was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after the completion of the dzong. The three-day annual Tshechu is witnessed by people from Punakha and Thimphu and provides the people with an occasion to partake in entertainment and revelry. The Tshechu is known for the Raksha Mangcham or the dance of the Ox. It concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdroel where people throng to receive blessings.

Ura Yakchoe

Ura valley in Bumthang is known for its famous dance known as the Ura Yakchoe. This festival that is held annually in the month of May is a festival where a sacred and an important relic is put on display for the people to receive blessings.  Myth has it that one day an old woman while sitting outside her house had a visitor, a lama who asked her for a glass of water. When she came out with a glass of water, the lama had vanished leaving behind a sack. Out of curiosity, she checked the bag and found a statue that is now being displayed annually. This relic has been passed on from generation to generation and now it’s owned by the descendants of the woman.

Black-necked Crane Festival

The Annual Black-necked Crane festival will be celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley on November 11, 2012. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of the heavenly bird, which becomes part and parcel of their daily lives, during the winter months. However, the annual black-necked crane festival is organized with the following objectives:

• Generate awareness and understanding among the local communities and visitors on the importance of conserving the endangered Blacknecked cranes

• Institute economic incentives (payment) for the festival to strengthen the linkages between conservation and economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods

• Provide avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the black-necked cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.

The festival generally includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dance and environmental related drama and songs by the school children.  The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon.

The festival will be organized by Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders, women, Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and RSPN representative.  The festival was first initiated by RSPN in 1998, and it has now become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley.

The organizers would like to welcome everyone to experience the festival, visit the Gangtey Gonpa, and see the beautiful black-necked cranes.  Be a part of the festival and reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship.

Chortenkora Festival

A great circumbulation at Gomphu

Chorten Kora is located in Trashiyangtse, the easternmost district of Bhutan. One can reach Trashiyangtse after two hours drive from Trashigang following the banks of Dangmechu and Kholungchu rivers.

The Chorten (Stupa) was built by Lama Ngawang Loday in 1740 in memory of his late uncle, Jungshu Pesan and also to subdue a demon that lived where the Chorten now stands.  It is believed to be a replica of the Boudhnath stupa in Nepal and was consecrated by the 13th chief Abbot of Bhutan Je Sherub Wangchuk. Today, it is considered one of the most important historical Buddhist structures.

It was built so that pilgrims could visit the temple in Trashiyangtse, instead of making a trip to Nepal. Further, a legend states that a young girl from Tawang, believed to have been a Khandom (Dakini) agreed to be buried alive inside the Chorten. For this reason a ritual known as Dakpa Kora is organized every year where hundreds of people from Arunachal Pradesh known as the Dakpas make it to Chorten Kora to circumambulate.

Dakpa Kora is held on the 15th day of the 3rd month corresponding to 28th February and Drukpa Kora (circumbulation by the Bhutanese) is held on the 30th day corresponding to 15th March every year.

Gomphukora Festival

Gomphu Kora lies in the heart of the agrarian belt of eastern Bhutan. It is 23 kilometres from Trashigang Dzong, the headquarters of Bhutan’s most populous district, and two kilometers from Duksum, a quaint hamlet consisting of a few shops.

Gomphu means “Meditation Cave” and Kora means “Circumambulation”.  The name is derived from a cave formed out of a rock-face next to a temple that has been built as a tribute to this sacred site.

The story of Gomphu Kora goes back to the 8th century AD. Legend has it that an evil non-human spirit named Myongkhapa escaped from Samye in Tibet when Guru Padmasambhava, the progenitor of the Nyingma strand of Buddhism, was spreading the Dharma in the Himalayas.  Myongkhapa followed the course of the present-day Kholongchhu stream and concealed himself inside a rock where Gomphu Kora stands today. The Guru followed the evil, mediated for three days inside the rock cave and finally vanquished it.

Several prominent religious personalities have undertaken pilgrimage to Gomphu Kora and the earliest was Gongkhar Gyal, grandson of Lhasay Tsangma. He built a small shrine at Gomphu Kora around the 10thcentury A.D. In the 14th century, Terton Pema Lingpa, visited Gomphu Kora and enlarged the existing shrine. It was renovated and enlarged in the 15th century by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, the grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. He also inscribed murals on the walls of the temple.

The biggest attraction of Gomphu Kora is the circumambulation. “Go around Gomphu Kora today for tomorrow may be too late”, so goes a local song that entices devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. And like herds of stampeding buffaloes, the place comes alive, once every year from 23rd to 25th March, when people all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in their finery, to partake in the festivity, to worship and to reunite themselves with their illustrious past.

The sanctity of the three-day religious festival equally draws the Dakpa tribe in neighboring Arunachael Pradesh (India) who endures days of travel on foot amid rugged environs with entire families in tow. Some say the Dakpas have done this for more than a millennium, beginning shortly after Guru Padmasambhava sanctified the place in the 8th century AD.

The Guru is attributed to have said that devotees will flock to Gomphu Kora for eons to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. There couldn’t be a more accurate prophesy.

Nomad festival

The ethnic diversity of Bhutan has always enthralled the outside world. A small Kingdom both in terms of its size and population yet has more than three major ethnic groups. Many nomadic tribes inhabiting the country speak as many as 17 dialects. The two major nomadic tribes in Bhutan are the Brokpas and Layaps inhabiting rugged terrains. Economically, the tribes depend on the Yaks for livelihood; the yak products are either bartered or sold off to buy their necessities.  Nomad Festival brings the highlanders of Bhutan together. It is an opportunity for these tribes to interact and learn from each other. The government makes sure that some knowledge infused exhibitions are demonstrated. Grasp this opportunity to interact with the nomads and get a sense of their unchanged life styles. Here is a chance to see all the nomads in Bumthang. You will save all your time trekking to those regions otherwise.  Nomad Festival set in central Bhutan allows you to see most part of Bhutan. You will be travelling through some districts. This allows you to experience the variance in vegetation, architecture, food and culture. Come one; display freshly collected edible mushrooms along with medicinal herbs, textiles and other bamboo products. Here is a chance for you to experience hot steamy stone bath in a traditional Bhutanese style. A night in camp or a farmhouse is yet another exciting line to add in your journal. This gives you a chance to forget your ipods as the bucolic music sweep you off your feet. Be an early riser, take your binoculars and play hide and seek with the birds. For those who love nature, be the adventure yourself and go for a day hike around the Thrumshingla National Park. This adds to sighting of some endangered species. Should lady luck be on your side, you may also bump into a Bengal Tiger.   Come all to this convention of urban nomads with the real nomads.

Nomad Festival attractions

Unique attires: Nomads have distinct life styles befitting their environment. The Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng have unique dress spun out of Yak hairs: men wear black caps with fi ve long fringes hanging from the sides. The upper body wear is a thick jacket woven out of Yak hairs. For torso wear a knee length short known as Kongo is worn. Women keep long hair tied up in plaits with colorful ribbons. They wear a sort of an apron that reaches their knee level tied at the waist designed with colorful motifs of animals and flowers.  Layaps (nomads from Laya) do have unique attire. Men dress like the rest of Bhutanese men with Gho tied at the waist. It is the Layap women who dress differently. They wear a conical bamboo hat and the necklaces are filled with jewelries of corals and agates. Layab women wear an overcoat like garment under which a sarong kind is worn. Both made from yak hairs and sheep wool.  Life styles: As Yak herders, nomads spend most of their lives in tents made of Yak hair.  During this festival we offer you an experience of such facilities. The hearth is in the centre of the tents that generates heat. Sitting around the hearth and cooking your own meal will be quite an experience.

Traditional arts and crafts: Arts and crafts have played a pivotal role in the lives of the Bhutanese. At the festival witness the artisans breathing life into statues beautifully crafted onto a slate or blacksmiths forging swords out of locally produced iron. There are extensions such as a potter displaying skill of pottery, layap women weaving conical hats out of bamboos, Brokpa spindling yak hairs or artisans carving wooden bowls.  Traditional games: Bhutanese still continue playing traditional games such as archery, dego, khuru, soksum and wrestling. Here at this festival we offer you an opportunity to enjoy archery played out with bamboo bows and arrows. You may even try the Bhutanese dart game called khuru, a stone-disc hurling (dego) or the Bhutanese javelin called soksum.  Nomadic cuisines: Bhutanese people love cuisines such as ones displayed at the Nomad Festival. Bumthang’s noodles  Puta), the fl our and the maize cuisines of Brokpas known as Bokpi and Kharang, the red rice cuisine from western Bhutan together with ema datshi –a dish prepared with chilli and cheese are some popular cuisines. Some peculiar Bhutanese cuisine such as fried liver, heart and intestines might enthrall you. Display of a village folk life: Village life in rural Bhutan is still unchanged and unaffected by modernity to a large extent. People still make use of the olden ways of living. The rounded stones are still used for grinding maize, and paddy is pounded traditionally to separate the grain form the husk. Oxen still plough the fields and drinking water is carried from the water source using traditional containers of wood and bamboo. In this festival one can have a glimpse of the traditional Bhutanese folk life and get a sense of rural Bhutan.


Central Bhutan

TRONGSA:  Elevation 2,316m

About four hour’s drive from Wangduephodrang is the central district of Trongsa, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, from where the first two kings ruled the kingdom.


Western Bhutan

THIMPHU:  Elevation 2,320m

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan with a population of approximately 100,000 people.  Thimphu became the capital in 1961, and the town is the largest in Bhutan.


East & South

For those with enough time on their hands, venture into eastern Bhutan for something quite different.  This is the land of the Sharchops, who speak their own language and nurture their own culture and weave beautiful textiles.