Punakha Tshechu / Dromche (festival) generally include dances and this festival is dedicated to Yeshe Gompo (Mahakala) or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective deities of Drukpas (Drukpas = means people of Druk land or Bhutanese). Punakha Dromche take place in the first month of the lunar year and ends with ‘Serda’, a magnificent procession which re-enacts an episode of the war against the Tibetan in the 17th century.
The religious dances performed during festival are called ‘Cham’ and there are a large number of them. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade, often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls or just simple human beings. These dances can be grouped in three categories; (I) Instructive or Didactic Dances, (II) Dances that purify and protect a place from demonic spirits, (III) Dances that proclaim the victory of Buddhism.
The Thongdroel unveiled during this festival is of enormous significance. Measuring 83 ft by 93 ft, Punakha Thogdroel (thongdroel = huge painted scroll) is the largest ever made. Composed entirely of applique on more than 6,000 metres of silk brocade, it took 51 artists, two years to complete. Depicting 20 of the greatest gurus and sages around the central figure of Shabdrung, the top half of the Thongdroel is devoted to the eleven manifestations of Shabdrung’s lineage. The bottom half depicts Bhutan’s spiritual leaders including the current Je Khenpo (chief abbot).