Lekey Zangmo and Yam Kumar Poudel 

Thousands gathered at the courtyard of Trashichhodzong yesterday to witness the Thimphu Lhamoi Dromchoe.

The event was opened to the public after it was maintained as a closed-door ceremony for the past two years.

People of all walks of life began to arrive at the dzong as early as 5am. Some placed mats and other items to reserve seats for their relatives and friends who came later.

Donning a maroon dress, 88-year-old angay Dema said, “I thought I would die before I could witness the chhams again. Luckily, I did not. I hope to come to the tshechu as well next week.”

Wearing a Kishu Thara with intricate patterns, Sonam in her 70s looks stands out in the crowd. “I have waited so long for this. It was a long and depressing few years at home baby sitting my grandchildren. I am happy to see many dances and chham today.”

Trashichhodzong courtyard was so crowded with devotees that police had to repeatedly clear out a path for people to enter and exit.

People braved the scorching sun in the morning and then the drizzle in the afternoon to watch the dances.

Some said that the authorities did something about the limited space. “It is hard for old people like us to enjoy the show while being asked to move from one place to another.”

Dromchoe is part of the 15 days annual Lhamoi Drubchhen ceremony performed by the Central Monastic Body. It was instituted by the first incarnation of Jampel Dorji, the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Kuenga Gyaltshen in 1709. It is believed that while in meditation, Kuenga Gyaltshen witnessed Pelden Lhamo perform the dances.

Tourists join the crowd

Amongst the spectators were tourists from various parts of the world.

“It is amazing to wear intricately patterned kira and take part in such festivals,” said a visitor from Gujrat, India.

Tourists said that they were excited to be able to attend the tshechu.

Alexander from Germany said that he was excited to witness the grand mask dance festival and take pictures for his collection.

“As a photographer, I want to take pictures in order to use them as a part of my cultural diversity project,” he said.

Thimphu Dromchoe which is conducted three days before the Annual Thimphu Tshechu received a good number of tourists despite the increase in tourist fee to 200 USD per person per night.

The increase in the SDF has triggered some discussions but they said that it would be alright if the proceeds were invested in improving the services.

Chris from London said that the SDF hike might reduce the inflow of tourists. “The tourist fee can be better used in order to improve the quality tours and help the economy of the nation,” he said.

The three-day Dromchoe concludes today.