Teschus (Festival in Thimpu)

Posted on October 5, 2012 by Margot

We were fortunate enough to be in Thimpu the capital city for the whole three days of the local festival or teschu. Think Royal Easter Show, Melbourne Cup and the Byron Blues and Roots Festival all rolled into one and you’ll get some idea of the atmosphere that pervades the whole town during these three days. There are some notable differences however, including no smoking and no alcohol, a multitude of red robed monks, and not a lot of flesh showing.

Security at Teschus fashion police at Teschus

All the local people were dressed in their national costume – actually mandatory when they are in any official precinct. We had to wear respectable clothes – long pants for the lads, no mini skirts for the gals, and both sexes had to refrain from wearing hats – something many of us felt quite uncomfortable about, particularly those with balding pates. (We older Australians have become very sun averse these days!) The dress police were out and about and one of our party who had put his hat back on was actually asked to remove it.

Dancer at Teschus 2 Dance in honour of Guru Rinpoche

The dhzong (fortress cum temple cum administrative centre) in which the main event was held is very official indeed – we actually had to go through security to get in. Once in however, there were no restrictions on where we could go, apart from the main square where the performances were taking place.

The dhongz itself was very impressive and was worth visiting in its own right, but having the performance and the crowds and the masked dancing as well was a real bonus. The dances are in honour of Guru Rinpoche, a highly revered Bhuddist saint who introduced Bhuddism to Bhutan from Tibet in the 8th century.

Teschus dance boots masked dancer with unusual weapon

There is a lot of religious significance attached to the dances, and the people obtain merit just by attending. However it is not all serious by any means. There are grotesquely masked clowns who make their way through the crowds harassing them for donations and pointing what I first thought were some sort of toy pistol at people. Turns out to be a giant phallus, about which I will tell you more later. Suffice to say at this stage the phallus is a very powerful symbol in this country and appears in all sorts of places – from paintings on house walls, to hanging off the rafters, to row upon row in “handicraft” souvenir stalls!

Teschus dance crowd 7 Teschus dance crowd 4

The Teschu brings people from all ranks of society together, from the poorest peasant to the movie star glamourous royal couple – not that we actually get to see the latter as they view proceedings from the Royal Box which is not open to the commoners gaze. Families make a day of it, picnicking and catching up with friends, monks watch from the balconies and middle aged men hang out together doubtless discussing the state of Gross National Happiness. It is an occasion of sartorial splendour when people dress in their finest and even the dogs don’t look too shabby!

Ross and I really enjoyed just hanging about in the crowd – you stay in one place long enough and someone will start talking to you. I made friends with two little boys, after I had commented on the beautiful boots that one of them was wearing. They shared some apples and walnuts with me and confided their dreams – one of them wants to swim with the dolphins while the other wants to go to London. Teschus dance crowd boys Teschus dance crowd 6

Ross got chatting with a bunch of recent graduates in Maths, physics, chemistry etc who were preparing to sit the Public Service Entrance examination next week. Their level of English was fantastic, but not surprising when we discovered that English is actually the medium of instruction in the education system.

One comment

  1. Diriqu says:

    As someone who has been tranelivg to Bhutan for more than 20 years, I too have concerns about the move to democracy facing Bhutan. If there was ever a benevolent monarchy I think Bhutan would be a good candidate. The average Bhutanese has benefitted greatly for the past 32 years from the foward thinking King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who recently abdicated in favor of his son. Carefully balancing the need for westernization and development with the equally important need to preserve the striking traditional culture of Bhutan, King Wangchuck has done a remarkable job overall. Of course, no political system is perfect and the monarchy in Bhutan has its detractors, but from my perspective, it has allowed the country to slowly open it’s doors to the outside world while balancing the needs of the average Bhutanese. With the coming of democracy, I think there will be an emormous opportunity for a wide range of problems from increased cronyism and corruption to political party strife and policymaking based on greed and ego rather than for the needs of the common people. If you want to see what can go wrong with democracy, take a look at the U.S.A. at present .when faced with our tyrannical King George , I’d take Bhutan’s style of monarchy any day.

Leave a Reply to Diriqu Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *