Photo Story: Punakha Tshechu, Bhutan

Punakha lies within a verdant valley of central Bhutan, where Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu, the Mother and Father Rivers, meet. Having once been Bhutan’s capital, life is centred around the town’s fortress Punakha Dzong, and it’s here, amidst the Jacaranda trees, that one of Bhutan’s largest festivals takes place each spring.

While Punakha Tshechu is one of the largest, these vibrant festivals are held in dzongs countrywide throughout the year, in honour of the yogi and saint Guru Rimpoche, who is said to have introduced Tantric Buddism to Bhutan on his journey through the Himalayas.

As monks and people from the surrounding region gather around the dzong’s courtyard, masked dancers act out folkloric tales to Buddhist chants and the music of drums, yak horn and lute, and jesters, known as atsaras, entertain the crowds. Each day then culminates with the unfurling of a long sacred scroll.

Punakha Tshechu is held in the early spring of each year.

All images © Lauren Jade Hill