Local Festivals

Festivals are the major tourist attractions in Bhutan. Likewise, in Gangtey Tshechu and Black-necked crane festivals are popular among local people and national and international visitors. These festivals are held annually with ceremonial dances performed by the monks and lay monks of the community. In addition, the event also includes folk dances performed by local people. Apart from the above, the crane festival features a special crane dance depicting the graceful character of the Black-necked cranes that bring joy to the local people. These occasions are excellent avenues to witness the faith, joy and happiness that locals derive from the festivals. The crane festivals is an important event where locals and outsiders alike pledge to safeguard the cranes and their habitat.

Black-necked Crane Festival

The Black‐necked crane festival is held every year in Phobjikha on 11th November. The festival was initiated by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in 1998. The objectives of the festival are to:

  • Foster awareness and understanding among the local communities and visitors on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes;
  • strengthen the linkages between conservation and economic welfare;
  • Provide avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage, and skills.

The festival is now being organized and managed by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC). The committee secures the cooperation and support of the local people and the schools in presenting a variety of cultural programmes including traditional masked and folk dances. The most amusing and entertaining part of the show that attracts the attention of the audience is the crane dance in which the school children enact the social behavior of cranes in the valley.

The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely on the support and contributions of the visitors and well-wishers of conservation. Avoid free‐riding and reward the community for continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through the crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community owned bank account and managed by this committee for activities of common benefit to the community.

Gangtey Tshechu

The Gangtey Tshechu (Gangtey annual festival) is performed every year on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th day of the eighth month of the Bhutanese calendar. While the main festival starts only during the last three days the preparation begins three days earlier. They finish practicing on the 5th and on 6th and a rehearsal is done. Then on 7th they will celebrate the trhue during which the performers will go to Kuenzang Chholing Sheda to wash and cleanse their body and prepare for the main occasion.

The mask dances are performed by the (gomchens) lay monks who are also residents of the Gangtey gewog. The main mask dances performed during these three days of the festival are Peling Ging Sum on the 1st day, Raksha Mangcham on the 2nd day and Guru Tshengye on the final day.

Khewang Tshechu

It was believed that in those days the construction of the Khewang temple was frequently obstructed by the demons in the valley. In order to stop these evils spirits, Trulku Penjor Gyeltshen created four types of dances. He performed the dances for three days to distract the attention of the spirits. This allowed the laborers to complete the temple without any trouble. To celebrate this victory of subduing the demons, Penjor Gyeltshen constructed the Gyalwai Rigna Chorten to the east of the temple.

This age-old belief is still kept alive through the three day festival organized every year at the Khewang. Kewang Tshechu is celebrated from the 1st to the 3rd day of the ninth Bhutanese month. The four dances created by Trulku Penjor Gyeltshen are performed on the 3rd day, as a celebration of his victory over the evil spirits.