One of the biggest festivals in the Bhutanese calendar, the Punakha Tshechu is held every year, sometime in February or March. The most important display during the five-day festival is the re-enactment of the Tibetan invasion of Bhutan in 1639. In this theatrical display, a mock throwing of a relic to the Mochu River is dramatized along with a group performance by more than a hundred people dressed as warriors, popularly known as “Pazaps.”.
This performance tells the story of 17th century Bhutan, when the Bhutanese were under siege by Tibetan forces. Devoid of a standing army of its own, the duty to hold the Fort fell on the local militiamen called “Pazaps”, from the eight great villages (Tshogchens) of Thimphu. The invaders were routed.
To celebrate the victory, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal introduced the Punakha Drubchen. The 17th century scene is re-enacted during the Drubchen with local men dressed as “Pazaps”.
served as an avenue where people chose their spouses, the first meeting occurring during the evening circumambulations. While this practice has dwindled, it is still alive.
The festival is held in one of the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan. Gomkora derives its name from “Gomphu Kora” – “Gom” meaning meditation; “Phu” cave and “Kora” circumambulation. It is said that Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated in the cave for three months and subdued the demon, Mongkhapa, locally known as Sewang Nagpo, who had fled Tibet and hidden in a rock at Gomkora.
Apart from Bhutanese, the Dakpa tribe from Tawang, the bordering Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, also join in the festive.