The largest annual festival in Bhutan is the Tshechu, an event honoring Guru Rinpoche through religious dances performed by the monks as well as by lay people. The dates and duration of the Tshechu festivals vary among dzongkhags (Districts) but they always fall on or around the 10th day of the month in the Bhutanese calender.
The dances are known as Cham and are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil; the dancers who take on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals do this. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Pema Lingpa were main figures who composed
many of the dances.It is believed that merit is gained by attending this religious festival. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase luck and grant personal wishes. Onlookers rarely fail to notice the Atsaras or clowns who move through the crowds mimicking the dancers and performing comic routines in their mask with long red noses. A group of ladies perform traditional Bhutanese dances during the intervals between mask dances.
An auspicious event of the many of the Tshechus is the unfurling of the Thongdrol from the main building overlooking the dance area. This is done before sunrise and most people rush to witness the moment. Thongdrols are large Thangkas or religious pictures that are usually embroidered rather than painted. The word itself means ‘liberation on sight.’ It is believed that bad karmas are wiped away simply by viewing it.Apart from its religious implications, the Tshechu is also an annual social gathering where people dress in their finest clothing and jewelry. A small fair may be organized outside the Dzong for those looking for a variety of entertainments.