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Chukha Tshechu

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Tshechu is a religious Bhutanese festival that is conducted annually in each district of Bhutan. Tshechu means “day ten”, the festival takes place on the tenth day of the month of the Lunar Tibetan calendar.

Chukha is one of the southern districts of Bhutan, the Tshechu Festival is held for three days at the courtyard of Chukha Dzong. It was first started in the year 1991 marking its 31st Tshechu this year.

Photographer: Karma Lekzin Dolma

This year, the three days of Tshechu began on the 1st of November and ended on the 3rd of November. The highlight of the Tshechu was the unfurling of the large Thongdrol (tapestry) of Guru Rinpoche along with different mask dances and traditional songs.

Besides Mask dances and traditional songs, the most interesting show is the Acho Pento.

Acho Pento [Shawa-Shachi: The Dance -Drama of the stag and Hounds].

It's a play about two lead human characters, the hunter Gyonpo Dorje (also known as Acho or older brother) and his manservant Pento. Acho is an ornately dressed nobleman played by a tall man wearing a white mask, an expensive gho, and ceremonial shoes. He uses his longbow as a walking stick and wears a sword. The red hound accompanies him as he hymns from either an elevated point or the corner of the courtyard. Pento, on the other hand, enters the main courtyard to play with the clowns. He wears a dark mask, black gho with layers of local matha kira over the gho. They start different contests and amusement until Acho calls for his manservant, who gets scolded for not being present while he was hunting. Pento also calls his hounds when he meets Acho. The two hounds swirl around quickly, greeting each other and their master. Show their canine pleasure by jumping towards each other and the two masters three times. Acho pierces his foot with a thorn when the hunt is finally underway and has to conduct a ritual. As the meal is served, guests are pulled from the crowd to the meal. The priest (clown) performs a lousy parody of a religious ritual, while Pento tries to keep the crowd entertained. The two hounds which were fed earlier by Pento return with a stag and dance with the music of small symbols and drums, and oboes sound as they enter and exit the dance stage.

Photographer: Karma Lekzin Dolma

In the first chapter, Acho and Pento, with the help of the clowns, try to trap the stag. Towards the end of the performance, Milarepa appears, depicting a traveling priest dressed in white cloth, wearing a white mask, and holding a hand drum. The performance ends with the performance of the stag and hounds as the oboes herald the end of the drama.

Before the ChukhaTshechu used to be conducted at the old Dzong which was built by Thang-thong Gyalpo around the 14th century. Now it is held at the new Dzong which was built in 2008 and completed in 2011 under the funding of the Royal Government of Bhutan.

It was consecrated by His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo and the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck (Queen of Bhutan) graced the ceremony in 2012. The Dzong is also known as “Ngoedruptse” meaning ‘the highest peak of blessing’. It is a grand structure that blends traditional architecture with touches of modernity. The most unique thing about the Chukha dzong is the design of the courtyard, it is a circular courtyard that withholds a few hundred people.

Photographer: Karma Lekzin Dolma

People from different parts of Bhutan and many international tourists come to witness the festival. The courtyard is filled with vibrant colors during these three days of the festival. Tshechu is the most awaited festival for the Bhutanese as it is the time when people showcase their best attire, socialize and have home-packed food with their families.

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