I first visited Bhutan in 2016. The country has a strong commitment to preserving its traditional culture, including its Buddhist foundation. My childhood in Thailand many decades earlier had exposed me to traditional Theravada Buddhism, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the fervent spiritual practices of the Bhutanese (which are based on Tantric Buddhism). The cheeky symbolism, the flashy religious dress and accessories, the energetic dances, even the name of one of their favorite saints, The Divine Madman, introduced a new way of considering reverence.

This collection emphasizes two key features of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition:

  • Tsechus: religious festivals celebrated annually at a monastery in each district. These are joyous gatherings, primarily spiritual but also important social occasions. The people re-immerse themselves in Buddhist teachings and fervently seek the monks’ blessings while also reconnecting with near and far-flung family and friends who have gathered for the several days of celebration.
  • Chams: ritual religious dances performed at Tsechus by spectacularly masked and elaborately robed dancers. These dances commemorate Guru Rinpoche, who was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan. Chams serve to both teach and bless the onlookers.
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In