Jambay Lhakhang Festival
On our last evening and the following morning before heading back to Paro we attended what is reported to be one of the most spectacular festivals (tshechu) in the country, the Jambay Lhakhang Drup, held just outside the town of Chamkhar in the Bumthang District, the cultural heartland of Bhutan. This annual medieval religious 5-day festival is held in October in the paved courtyard and on the grounds of the 7th century Jambay Lhakhang temple, one of the oldest in the country. The festival commemorates the teachings of Guru Rinpoche, the Tantric Master who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. We first attended the market-like gathering, where handcrafts were sold and took our chances at the various gambling games.
Later in the evening we watched the Fire Dance, where masked monks and laymen dressed in colorful costumes performed traditional medieval folk dances, portraying wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons and animals, all of which are intended to symbolize the fight between good and evil; clowns mimicked the dancers and entertained the audience by tapping onlookers heads with the wooden phallus they carry. One of the highlights of the evening was watching the locals, including our tour guide run underneath a gigantic flaming gate made out of dry grasses, with ambers and piles of burning grasses falling on their head. Check out this video of the Fire Arch Ritual at Jambay Lhakhang Festival. Due to the rain, we did not attend another highlight on this last evening of the Festival, the “Tercham,” or Dance of Treasure, a special ceremonial dance around midnight when the monks, wearing only face masks, perform the dance completely naked in order to augur a good harvest, sanctify the area and purify the onlookers from sins.