Chorten Kora Festival


 

Chorten Kora is located in Trashiyangtse, the easternmost district of Bhutan. One can reach Trashiyangtse after two hours drive fromTrashigang 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 Khando (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.


Gomphu Kora 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 Arunachal 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.


Haa Summer Festival

 

The Haa Summer Festival offers a lively and uplifting combination of traditional living culture, nomadic lifestyle, demonstration of Bhutanese cuisines, processing of local Ara (drink), traditional sports, religious performance, dances, songs, artifacts, and natural alpine flowers.

You can also stay the night at one of the many farm houses and enjoy the hospitality of the local people. The other highlights of the Festival are Photography Competition and Mountain Bike Race – open to all


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 Tshechu 

 

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.


Sakten Festival – Sakten Tshechu 

 

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 annually from 21st to 23rd February.


Trongsa Festival

 

Trongsa, the sacred and the temporal heart of the country is a two days journey from Thimphu. Situated in central Bhutan and once the seat of power over central and eastern Bhutan, both the first and second Kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat. All four Kings were invested as Trongsa Penlop (“Governor”) prior to ascending the throne. The Dzong built in 1648, is a massiv structure with many levels, sloping down the contours of the ridge on which it is built. Because of the effectively the dzong’s highly strategic position, on the only connecting route between east and west, the Trongsa Penlop was able to control effectively the whole of the central and eastern regions of the country from here.

Of the many festivals being held in various parts of Trongsa, the highlight is the four day annual tshechu being held annually where people from all walks of life congregate. The tshechu falls sometime in the month of December. Besides the mask dances, one can witness the unfurling of the sacred Thongdrol and receive blessings. People also receive blessings from the sacred Nangtens that is open during the last day of the tshechu.