The Bhutanese are festive people. They love socializing, attending festivals, dressing up in their finest ghos and kiras, playing the traditional sports of archery and dart and basically anything that helps them to be in the spirit of celebration. Owing to their fun loving nature, throughout the country there are various kinds of festivals that are celebrated in different times of the year. Among these festivals, the most recognized and attended by the mass is Tsechu festival (Tse-Date Chu–Ten). This festival is celebrated to commemorate the great deeds of 8th century Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava who is credited in spreading of Mahayana Buddhism in the entire Himalayan region.
These Tsechu festivals are dominated by ancient old religious Mask Dances that are performed by both monks and lay person in brilliant costumes re-enacting the legendary events, accompanied by blaring horns, booming drums, and clashing cymbals as they whirl and leap around the ancient old courtyard of a Dzong (Fortress) or in a small temple at a village. Crowds gather in their finest hand woven dress, brightly patterned for which Bhutan is renowned, creating an intensely colorful and exciting atmosphere that had remained unchanged in its traditional purity for centuries. Locals believe that by dressing in their finest is another form of offering that could bring them blessings, give them an opportunity to please the deities which in return bring them merit, luck, prosperity and also an occasion to see people and to be seen. The dance itself is believed to be the representation of the deities that are encountered during the intermediate period of death and rebirth.
During these festival trips, we traverse through the culturally centered valleys of Bhutan, experiencing the enchantment of pure and exotic land, through its ancient fortresses, monasteries, and temples that dot the country side and have opportunity to witness Bhutan’s rich arts and crafts that transforms into exquisite works of art from the hands of master artisans. Thanks to its isolation, small population, mountainous terrain, and the national religion of Buddhism, which stresses the sanctity of all life, Bhutan has protected its forests and wildlife. As a result, this tiny kingdom, in contrast to all of its neighbors, possesses the last truly intact, large-scale ecosystem in the Himalayas. Protecting not just nature but culture is a huge priority for Bhutan. The Bhutanese people constitute one of the most interesting and least disturbed cultures in the world and are often known as the “Living museum” by its few visitors. It is not uncommon to be engaged in discussion by passerby, or to be invited in for lunch by a Bhutanese family. The Bhutanese are often as curious about outsiders as tourists are about them. Over the course of our days in Bhutan, we will immerse ourselves in the country's rich Buddhist culture, ancient traditions and have ample opportunities to interact with the friendly people of Bhutan and learn their philosophy of “GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS”