By the time the Paro Tsechu starts on the 10th day of the second lunar month, the monks have spent sixty days in prayer and practice. Sleeping only a few hours each night during this time, they meticulously run through dance steps handed down by saints, designed to invoke deities.
The first day's masked nang-chham are held in the courtyard inside Rinpung Dzong, but the subsequent days' festivities are now held in an open space outside the dzong, to better accommodate the numbers that wish to attend.
To the Bhutanese who crowd into the festival ground, dressed in their finest kiras and ghos, a tsechu confers blessings and spiritual protection upon all those who attend. At dawn on the final day of the tsechu, a thongdrol - a huge thangka, already over two centuries old - is unfurled to catch the first rays of dawn light, cleansing the viewers of sin for another year to come.