Thimphu festival has two parts: the first is the Lhamo Dromchoe, and the second the Gongdue Tshechu. The dances at the Lhamo Dromchoe or the ‘Great Achieving Prayer of the Female Deities’ was introduced by Gyalse Kunga Gyaltshen (1689-1713) in 1710. During a retreat at Chagri monastery, he experienced visions of Palden Lhamo, a powerful protective deity. Based on these experiences, Gyalse Kunga Gyaltshen introduced this sacred dance.
During Lhamo Dromchoe, 21 female protective deities – Palden Lhamo and her retinue – are invoked for the entire two-week prayer.
Over 300 monks assemble inside a large shrine dedicated to Palden Lhamo whose blessings are believed to usher in peace, prosperity and stability for Bhutan. The monks gather daily at 3 a.m. to pray while the Black Hat Dance is also performed each morning inside the main chapel.
Thimphu Tshechu, held in Bhutan’s capital city, was initiated by the 4th Temporal Ruler of Bhutan, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867. The festival underwent a change in the 1950s, when the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, introduced numerous Boed chhams (mask dances performed by lay monks). The additions has added colour without compromising the spiritual significance.
From the year of its establishment in 1687, Thimphu Tshechu was performed inside Trashichodzong courtyard until 2007. However, because of the steady increase in attendees, the inner courtyard became too congested to properly perform the rites. Therefore, to accommodate a growing numbers of viewers, a new Tshechu stadium was constructed and named Tendrel Thang, meaning ‘Auspicious Ground’.