Royal Highland Festival in Laya

To make Laya a tourist destination, the first edition of the highland festival contributed about Nu 5 million to the community last year.

The Royal Highland Festival in Laya which took place on 23 and 24 October 2017 (Source: http://www.kuenselonline.com)

 

The two-day Royal Highland Festival in Langothang, Laya which took place on 23 and 24 October saw highlanders from nine dzongkhags display their unique traditions, lifestyle and cultures.

Festival helps to preserve tradition

The festival also gave the highlanders some ideas on how they could prevent their traditions and cultures from vanishing. There were veterinary clinics available to help the locals understand sustainable methods of livestock rearing and fodder treatment.

Langothang was filled with the dome and local tents called Bja. Bja might look hollow and transparent, but it is rain proof.

Sangay Khandu, 19, from Laya said that he saw the tent for the first time last year during the first Royal Highland Festival.  “I heard about it but had never seen one, it’s very unique.”

With rapid development, some Bhutanese communities are losing their unique tradition and culture.

Sangay Khandu owns five horses and the festival is the time for him to make some income. “I make about Nu 4,000 per trip. At other times, my horses are engaged in carrying loads for tourist.”

The festival is a good opportunity for the highlanders to sell their livestock products.

Horse racing – an ancient sport of the nomads

One of the main attractions of this year’s festival was horse racing. It is the only time where the local spectators get to witness a horse race.

Believed to be one of the most ancient sports of the nomadic people, horse racing culture had almost vanished in the highlands.

Dawa Pem, 57, from Chongra said that she had never witnessed a horse race before. “This is my first time. We raise horses only for porter services. Last year, I made about Nu 150,000 from porter service.”

Laya has a culture of organising local festivals called Bongko and Chibee alternatively every year. Unlike the highland festival, though, they do not bring in many visitors.

Dawa Dem said: “The unique lifestyles, culture and dress are the things that attract outsiders. It is important for us to preserve them. The festival reminds us about the importance of preserving our culture.”

The Highland festival is the only time when community youths are seen wearing the formal dress. The unique dress of the Laya women is almost never worn today.

To make Laya a tourist destination, the first edition of the highland festival contributed about Nu 5 million to the community last year.

 

By Nima (This article has been edited for the Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared on Kuensel.

 


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