Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted Mahayana Buddhism in its Tantric form as its official religion. The Buddhist faith has played and continues to play a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of country and its people. Monks are held in great respect and play an active part in community life.
The influence of Tantric Buddhism since the mid 7th century has irrevocably shaped Kingdom’s history and destiny, and has had an indelible and enlightening impact on the Bhutanese way of life. It affect almost everything ; from arts and crafts to the system of government, from folk dances to architectural style. To this day also, the importance and relevance of Buddhism has not waned and Buddhist values and traditions still permeates every aspect of the Bhutanese culture and ethos.
At different time of the year, the annual festivals known as “Tsechus” take place in different locations. These Tsechus are festivals extolling the great deeds of Guru Padsambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche. Festivals are celebrated for several days between three to five and are the occasion for dances that are purely defined in religious content. Dancers in brilliant silk costumes re-enact legendary events, accompanied by blaring horns, booming drums and clashing cymbals as they whirl and leap against a background of sky and mountains. Certain festivals end with the unveiling and worship of a huge religious appliques or thongdroel and festival goers believe that simply by viewing this thangkha, they can be delivered from the cycle of reincarnation which is the ultimate aim of Buddhism.
For the Bhutanese people, religious festivals offer an opportunity to become immersed in the meaning of their religion and gain much merit. They are also the occasion for seeing people and for being seen, for social exchanges and for flaunting success. People bring out their finest clothes, their most beautiful jewelleries. An atmosphere of convivial, slightly ribald with humor prevails.