Many people will be drawn to Bhutan if they have an interest in Buddhism – whether they are practicing it or not. Bhutan practices four different types of Buddhism and this extremely gentle belief is ever present in all the wonderful, gentle and calm Bhutanese people that you meet.
For those that are particularly interested in the topic, we will try and arrange a visit with the Chief Abbott to discuss this subject privately, over a meal for example. This is a huge privilege and not something that is open to tourists and is entirely discretionary, but rather depends upon our relationship that we have built with these people over a period of time.
It is also a fantastic way to meet such esteemed individuals like this, who study philosophy for nine years. A large part of Bhutan in terms of icons or landmarks is dominated by its dzongs. These dzongs are generally speaking inhabited by the monks and not only can one take in the magnificent architecture, built in the traditional and vernacular style on a grand scale, but also one can see the monks going to prayer and conducting their every day lives, adorned in their rich, red robes.
One might even partake in a religious debate which again, can be arranged on an ad hoc basis and one donates an evening meal for all the monks. Hear this wonderful, animated discussion revealed and translated to you via your guide. This is completely authentic and fascinating!
Religious Festivals or tesechus as they are locally known, are another main reason that so many tourists want to visit Bhutan. Dating back from the 17th Century, these religious festivals are held at different times each year and in each different region, generally speaking from the dzongs. These are arranged in Spring or Autumn, around the Lunar calendar.
Each of the dances has their own spiritual importance and is based around the Buddhist teachings. They also ask for a good harvest. After the flag ceremony, there is much merriment and traditional dancing and sword fighting with fabulous, energetic displays in colourful costumes and face masks.
Prior to dawn on the last day, a huge tapestry is unfurled and left in the courtyard to bring spiritual liberation. We will often suggest visiting the ceremonies that are further away and less frequented by tourists for a more pristine experience. The largest tsecchus occur in Thimphu, Paro and Bumthang. If travelling on a holiday to Bhutan, then try and take in a tsechhu!
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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