What are the kind of places that you should include in your Bhutan travel guide? Monasteries, dzongs (historic structures), cuisine and opportunities for adventure, right? Have you ever given a thought about the festivals while planning your Bhutan travel there? You should try and attend some of their festivals. Right from the mask dances called Cham to folk songs, every bit of it is a treat to watch and experience.

The festival of Punakha Drubchen was started to commemorate the heroic victory of the Bhutanese over the invading Tibetan invading armies. As time went on, it grew in popularity and gradually became the annual festival of Punakha district.

In the 17th century, the western part of the country that we call Bhutan was invaded by Tibetan armies. They were after a precious relic called Rangjung Kharsapani. In the absence of a standing army, young men from the neighbouring eight village blocks (called tschogchens in the Bhutanese language), led by their leader, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal of Punakha, inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy. The magnitude of the victory becomes quite apparent when we consider that it led to the unification of Bhutan as a nation.

Every year in the month of February/March, the battle scenes are re-enacted by local militia men (who are known as pazaps) dressed in the battle costumes of those times. A particular favorite with the visitors to the Punakha Drubchen festival in Bhutan is the mask dance. Performers don a variety of colorful and scary looking masks and perform folk dances. The costumes are made of yellow silk or rich brocades and are adorned with ornaments of carved bone. These are organised by the Central Monastic Society along with the public of Punakha district.

This colorful festival is not to be missed when you plan a visit to Bhutan, because it occupies an immense historical and cultural significance other than its aesthetic value. The festival is dedicated to Yeshey Gempo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo, two deities which are believed to protect the Drukpas, or the people of Bhutan.

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Insight into Festival Duration, Dates, and Features

Festival Duration

Punakha Drubchen, one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan, is celebrated over a period of three days. The festival is held in the month of February, as it follows the lunar calendar.

  • Starting Date – 2 March 2020
  • Ending Date – 4 March 2020

Festival Destination

The Punakha Drubchen festival in the district of Punakha which lies in the western part of Bhutan. Apart from Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian nationals, other foreign nationals will need a Bhutan visa to visit the country.

Special Highlights of the Festival

  • Watch re-enactment of battle scenes
  • Enjoy variety of colorful mask dances
  • Exciting folk dances and performances

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