Gomphu Kora Tshechu is popular among old and young alike. The older people attend the Tshechu for spiritual purpose while the younger ones go there for their own wild reasons. The festival which began some four centuries ago was started after the monastery was constructed. It was initiated by Lama Ngagi Wangchuk, son of Lama Ngawang Chogyel. Terton Pema Lingpa later consecrated the monastery. Although the mask dance was introduced only around early 1990s, the festival as such had long been very popular.
The history of Gomphu Kora dates back to the time of Guru Rinpoche. Guru had reached this looking for dud called Chophel all the way from Samye Monastery in Tibet.
After subduing Dud Chophel, Guru meditated for three months in the cave called Kapaliphu which is quite near to the monastery. While Guru was busy meditating, dud Chophel tried to escape by transforming himself into a serpent. In order to stop Chophel from escaping, Guru hastily ended his meditation. While standing up, his head hit the cave ceiling. There, he left his hat and body imprints which still, I believe, exists. The body imprints of the dud Chophel trying to escape as serpent can also be seen.
The story explains that Chophel, who was also known as Yonglha was Guru's classmate at Nalanda University. However, Chophel fell into bad company and got misled by other anti- Buddhist doctrines that existed at that point of time. So it is said that he started to revolt against Buddhism. Interestingly, it is also said that Chophel had attained very high level of spiritual powers so much so that he was equally competent in confronting the Guru. Because of this, it took long time for Guru to subdue Chophel. After Chophel was subdued, he was given the title of Genyen and bound under oath to protect and support Dharma teachings. Today, Genyen Chophel is regarded as one of the higest ranking deities not only in Bhutan but also among the followers of Drukpa Kargyud Sects around the world.
The other story relating to Gomphu Kora refers to King Trisong Detsen asking Guru Rinpoche to save and grant him long life when he was about to die.
It is said that Guru Rinpoche had sent his disciple Naynam Dorji Dudjum to fetch a Tshebum ( a vase containing the water of immortality) from Draphu Maratika in Nepal. Unfortunately, as Naynam Dorji Dudjom returned to Gomphu Kora from Draphu Maratika, King Trisong Detsen had passed away. Since it was of no use to King Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche hoped that it would be of use to the rest of the people in the world in the future. So the vase, as it is said in the legend, was hidden by Guru Rinpoche inside the large rock behind the Lhakhang. Today, during the auspicious occasions, it is being said that people can see droplets of water trickling down the rock from a small crevices. If one is fortunate enough to get even a droplet of this water, one is said to be blessed with long and prosperous life.
The festival as such, is one of the biggest attractions in the whole of the eastern region. It comes with a promise of refreshed hope of colourful spring and renewal of lives after hard hard Winter.
Dakpas and Monpas from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh add to the festivity and enrich the age-old culture, tradition and values. Young people releases extra adrenalin during the festival looking for possible match or sexual adventure. Young women in colourful costumes are the stars of the festival but what happens after the festival is an individual experience (hahahahahahah).
Jokes aside, there are many pilgrimage sites around the Gomphu Kora areas, especially along the river bed right from Tsergom in Jamkhar Geog till Toetsho Geog which is believed to have been blessed by Guru Rinpoche himself.