Paro Tshechu is one of the biggest such festivals in the Bhutanese calendar. It has been held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the state of Bhutan, and Penlop Rigzin Nyingpo initiated the festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong in 1644. The festival is observed in three parts – the pre-festival rituals on the first day, ceremonies on the second day inside the Paro Dzong, and the main festival at the festival ground for three days. Bhutanese from all walks of life in their finery come to attend the five-day festival.
A special event in all Tsechus is the unfurling of the Thongdrol, meaning “Liberation at Sight.” This comes from the belief that seeing an aesthetically proportioned Buddhist image plants a seed of enlightenment in the viewer’s heart. That seed matures into the liberation of one’s mind and frees us from endless rebirths of suffering.
Thongdrol also means large silk appliqué thangkas (painting) that are displayed for a few hours during important religious ceremonies in Bhutan.
The sacred Thongdrol of Guru Rinpoche is displayed early in the morning on the last day of the Tshechu. On such occasion, the festival venue fills with people at dawn in freezing cold.
This awe-inspiring artwork depicts Guru Rinpoche in His eight manifestations flanked by two consorts. The giant thangkha is unfurled to the ground and then ceremoniously folded away before the sun rays reach it.