Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nimalung Tsechu

In the past week I have been feeling so blessed and grateful for our posting in Bumthang, Bhutan's spiritual heart. At the start of the year life seemed a bit bleak here - the ground was dry and brown, without signs of any life. The weather was bitterly cold day after day and we weren't able to buy any fruit or vegetables in the local shops.

But here we are at the start of summer and the contrast is so wonderful - with gorgeous hot days, an abundance of fruit and vegetables available and to add to that, a weekend off to enjoy not one, but two local Tsechus (festivals). What made these festivals so special is that since they are in our local area where we have lived for nearly six months, we know so many people and felt part of the local crowd. We had friends to explain the dances to us, children to have a little chat with and who were happy to pose for photos, and friends to enjoy a beer with at the end of the day. This experience is priceless and we'll treasure it in our memory of our time in Bhutan when we look back in years to come.

Sunday morning one of our friends from school picked us up and drove us to Nimalung Lhakang, about 7 kms away for the first of three days of the festival. We arrived nice and early and started the day with choosing the obligatory icecream for the boys to sweeten them up for a day at the temple.


Some young monks check out what's on offer at one of the stalls that sells cheap toys.

Only a small crowd was gathered to see the first dances of the day, and we had plenty of choice where to sit to watch. A casual, fun and festive atmosphere makes tsechus a real pleasure - although the dances depict deep and meaningful spiritual and cultural traditions, children still run around freely, the crowd chat with each other and the atsaras (clown-like monks) add some belly laughs as they roam around to tease the crowd with large wooden phalluses!

Aside from photos of the dances, I enjoyed taking photos of people and other interesting things around the temple. Participating in photo-a-day has really sparked an interest in photography that I'm getting quite addicted to. Here are the highlights of our days at Nimalung Tsechu...

Family pic - I'm all glammed up in my special handwoven kira that is reserved for special occasions like this.

Young monks watch the dances.

Here is Choney, one of my gorgeous Class 2 students in her beautiful kira.

And her friend Tshomo, also from Class 2 looking just as lovely in aqua.

Sonam Choki from Class 2 with her aunty looking so glamorous.
Mask dancers.

The atsara comes around to tease Bob with his you-know-what!

Armed and dangerous!

The boys had fun playing with a young boy from the USA who is on holiday with his parents here.

Loud music from horns, drums and cymbals accompanies the dances.

The elaborate costume of the black-hat dancer as he emerges from the temple.

This young monk was happy to have his photo taken, but his friend swiftly hid behind the door.

Remy with his new bling - Xavier won an 'R' pendant in the lucky dip!

Two students from Chumey MSS looking very handsome in their ghos.

Women dressed in their finest kiras come on and do folk dances in between the masked monk dances.

Dancers are barefoot on the weathered stones of the courtyard.


Mr Galey and his little son who looked so cute in his gho.

Mr Chimmi and Mr Tandin with Bob and Xavier.

If you look closely you'll see the inscription in the concrete - I love you Sonam Zangmo - which amused me as we are in a monastery.

Remy and Xavier both loved playing with and teasing the atsaras.

The ladies arrived with their baskets full of crispy rice cakes as offerings, but left with them empty.

At the end of day one we weren't the only ones heading to the Amrita Bakery shop to have a sweet treat before we went home!

As we were leaving, two of my students Tshomo and Phuntsho came and gave me a beautiful bunch of roses they'd picked!

By the end of day two we were ready for a beer!
Piled in the back of the ute ready to go home!



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    1. You have chosen a great tsechu to attend. I think Nimalung was my favorite and we went to most of Bumthangs tsechus. If you explore myblog you will see we were living in nearby Chumey and were free to travel independently through the year. The great benefit of being a volunteer.

  2. I JUST LOVED the first picture entitled "Some young monks check out what's on offer at one of the stalls that sells cheap toys" and I thought "Boys will be boys"....