Day 15: Bumthang, Jakar Tsechu

Our day started with a quick breakfast in our dining room. The facilities here are fabulous!

Our dining room with a lovely fire warming the atmosphere
Our table with a view looking up the valley.

Once breakfast was finished we met our guide and driver and were off to the Jakar Dzong. This large building is both a monastery and a fort, or government building. Today it is hosting for the second day the religious and cultural festival known as a tsechu. The festival will last for 3 days, and we will also be attending tomorrow morning as well. Many dances are performed: religious interpretations are done by monks; festive interpretations are done by regionally supported dance professionals; and regional women’s folk singing is also performed.

Here is a look at the colourful entrance of the fort, complete with a water prayer wheel!

Through the gate and up the steps we climb to the main courtyard where the performances are hosted.
Water prayer wheel, constantly spinning and giving prayers to the valley through the use of the flowing water.

Once inside, we were able to capture a prime spot on the rock ledge beside the dance space. Our alternative would have been to sit on mats with most of the audience!

The first performers we saw were the clowns. These performers are extremely familiar with the dances, assist the dancers when there are costume malfunctions, assist the police in lightly moving the audience into the proper areas, and generally entertaining the crowd between performances. I can tell you they were real characters!

A clown relaxing on the sidelines!
Clowns becoming part of the act in taunting a dancer who happens to have a weapon that they would whack the clown with is they could catch them!

The first performance we saw was a women’s group singing a old folk song. Notice the beautiful silk woven skirts they all are wearing. These skirts are hand woven, depending on the intricacy of the pattern could take up to a year to weave, and are extremely expensive! It is at these festivals that everyone comes our in the finest. More on that later!

Women singing a Folk Song – look at their amazing outfits!

The next performance was done by monks in costume. The masks they are wearing are the wrathful reincarnation of the second Buddha. The dance is about attracting evil spirits and capturing and destroying them so that they do not harm the people of this valley.

Trumpet and horns playing for the dancers
The rhythm section! A young monk stands beside a leader monk who is playing the large cymbals. This young monk bangs the drum each time the cymbals are hit!
The main figure in the dance
Dancers trying to attract the demons to all come to them. In the centre you can see a small box on the ground. This will be used to capture all the demons, and will be locked in the temple
This energetic dance lasted for over an hour!
A close up of the masks worn by the dancers. The clowns were often interceding to tighten a mask, or replace a sash during the performance.
Nothing but bright colours to support this festival
At last the demons have submitted to the dance, and the people will be protected from them as the priest takes the box out of the arena.

The next dance involved a professional dancer, depicting an animal form which represents one of the weaknesses that buddhists work to overcome.

This is the Stag Dance, depicting the ritual of liberation

This festival is a time of gathering of families to attend wearing their finest and bringing lots of food. The people watching was amazing!

Little girl excited by the dancers!
This baby can sleep through anything!
A family with their picnic vying for a seat. Just look at the colours!!
These two sisters were having lots of fun tickling and laughing!
These young women were sitting outside the courtyard clearly immersed in an activity that is global!

i showed you a picture of the young monk drummer, but we saw a number of young monks visiting with families during the festival. Monks can enter the monastery after the age of 5!

A young monk watching the dance

After about 3 hours, we decided to go and have some lunch, and then stretch our legs for a while. One of my newly discovered side dishes is call chilli cheese!

Big flavour with a bit of a kick!

After lunch we went to visit the local brewery (Red Panda) as well as the Swiss Cheese shop. While the operations were closed because of the festival, we managed to get in a great walk reversing our track from yesterday!

A view of the Thangbi Goemba – the temple built by Pema Lingba
Walking back across the river, we decided to take a more stable bridge – also providing great views of the river.
108 standing prayer flags. We were told that prayer flags are usually hung in valleys, or mountain tops so the the wind can carry the prayers continuously. You can not take them down until they are completely destroyed.
Dan and Kencho crossing a farm bridge as we passed several farms.

Tomorrow will be another morning at the festival, and then we move on to our home stay in Nhang Lhakhang. As we will be in home stays for the next few nights it may be a while before I send out our next report. (Although I never cease to be amazed with life here in Bhutan!). Until the next post!

Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019


  1. Your place looks fabulous and the colours at the festival are so vivid – almost explosive! Keep them coming!


    • I’ll be taking more shot today, but not sure when I’ll be able to post next. We have some village homestays coming up over the next few days, the shots will be there, it just might take time! I must say, I’ve been very impressed with how in a few short years they have really geared this country to tourism!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We are so enjoying your photos and adventures! Beautiful!


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