Yathra Weaving – A Specialty In Bumthang Which Brings Income And Villagers Together

For tourists, Yathra products are popular and unique souvenirs from Bumthang.

A woman weaving Yathra. (Source: Book My Tour/Bhutan)

 

By Kinley Yonten | The Bhutanese

Thick hand woven woollen textile with intricate designs, locally known as Yathra has been a unique specialty of weavers in Chummey, Bumthang for generations.

Yathra weaving is prevalent in all the four gewogs in Bumthang. Around 240 households out of the 13-15 villages in Bumthang depend on the sale of Yathra for their livelihood.  

It is also a tradition that has been kept alive by the women weavers in Chungphel, Zhurey, Kertsho, Bhim, Terzoe and Yeerangbi in Chummey.

Weaving Yathra as a communal affair

The women weave throughout the year as it is their main source of cash income. Settlements in these villages are clustered, therefore women come to weave together as a group in a hut. Girls begin their training to weave as young as 8 years of age.

Source: Stranovsky Photography

In a typical set up, a group of four to six women usually weave facing each other. While they weave, they converse on various topics and sometimes they sing together or listen to radio programs.

The joint collaboration among weavers in Bumthang has helped to increase diversification in their weaving patterns and to enhance its sale.

Uses of Yathra

Due to the long cold winters, the people in Bumthang have had to use Yathra as coats and raincoats and bedding material. Yathra can also be used as furniture cover, stitched into caps, purses and bags according to the design preference of customers, who are mostly tourists.

A weaver by the name of Dema is a successful entrepreneur today. She said that her investment is now paying off huge dividends as the marketing and delivery of products became much easier.

She had pooled in her resources and weaving expertise to set up a joint venture. In the process, weavers share floral designs and multi-coloured stripe combinations. They even guided each other as they weave in groups.

Dema and her family are delighted to show their successful endeavour to other weavers and farmers in the village.

Where and how do villagers sell their Yathras?

There are three Yathra weaving centres located in the Chhumig gewog. The Gakid Yathra Weaving Centre is located in Umsang village, while the Thokmed Yeshey Handicraft, Yathra Production Centre and Sonam Lhaden Tshongkhang in Zhung Ngae Chiwog are located in the Chummey gewog.  This facilitates the sale of Yathra to highway commuters and tourists.

Villagers who hail from Zhungri, which is about a day’s walk to Chhume, sell their products to the dealers once a month. They prefer to barter their Yathras for groceries and garments.

Yeshey, a Yathra dealer in Chummey said that he gives cash to people who take money for their yathras and groceries to those who barter their Yathra. This form of transaction suits him as he does not have cash on him at times.

Each year Yeshey supplies about 100 to 200 Yathra pieces to the various textile shops in Thimphu and other dzongkhags. He sells them for Nu 600 to Nu 1,800 depending on the quality of the product.

According to Yeshey, the products he buys or exchanges with the villagers fetches him about Nu 20,000 to Nu 30,000 during the peak tourist seasons and drops down to Nu 5,000 to Nu 6,000 during the lean tourist seasons.

However, many weavers prefer to sell their products to shops along the bypass road, the main marketing outlet, to commuters and tourists. They then buy yarns and rations from grocery shops.

Yathra is a popular souvenir for tourists

Source: Book My Tour/Bhutan

The demand for locally hand-woven Yathra has been consistent as they are valued by consumers.

“For the tourists, the Yathra products are unique souvenirs from Bumthang. However, to increase the market base, the channel of marketing will have to be improved further,” said Ap Wangdi from Chummey.

Using wool imported from India to weave Yathra instead of Bhutanese wool

Although weavers prefer to use imported Swiss wool as yarn for weaving Yathra, these days the wool from India is in demand for economic reasons.

“Bhutanese wool is considered to be of greater quality,” said Yeshey. “But the charges are abnormally high.”

According to the Information and Technology Communication (ITC) officer in Bumthang, Sonam Jamtsho, Yathra production could become cheaper if there is technological advancement in the production of woollen yarn in Bhutan. This will lower the cost of making local wool.

“The lack of such a processing unit has compelled the Yathra factory owners to depend on imported Indian wool, although the locally produced wool is of pure and superior quality, which is preferred by the consumers,” he said.

He added that the dependency on imported wool has led to the decrease in sheep rearing for wool in the dzongkhag.

“Yathra is traditionally woven by wool produced from sheep raised by the people of Chummey. But the decreasing number of sheep has led to the import of raw materials from India. Today, almost all the raw materials are imported from India,” Mangmi Chundu Tshering said.

The cost of local wool production is expensive as compared to the cost of using imported Indian wool. The price of bleached and ready-made Indian wool ranges from Nu 300 per kg for the cheapest version to Nu 1,200 per kg for the superior ones.

As a result, the Yathra producers depend on imported wool to keep production costs down. Yathra factory owners pay about Nu 10,000 to 15,000 for weaving 15 pieces of Yathra.

Moreover, some owners also provide meals to the weavers. “One piece of 3 metres long Yathra requires approximately 1.1 kg of wool. A weaver can complete weaving 15 pieces of 3 metres long Yathra in one month,” said Yeshey, a Yathra dealer.

 

This article first appeared in The Bhutanese and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 

 


Related Posts

Tourism Growth Boosts Handicrafts Business

“We can see the happiness in the colours and it’s very special. I think it’s essential that westerners come over,...

Nov 01, 2017 07:10

Handicraft Shops Do Lucrative Business

Handicraft business in Paro is lucrative. The profit margin was very high. Although the same remains true now,...

Aug 21, 2017 15:17

Conserving the Traditional Art of Weaving

The mission of the Royal Textile Academy is to preserve and promote the traditional form of weaving.

Nov 18, 2017 10:36

Weavers Recognised for Promoting Arts and Crafts

The 16th National Design and Art competition was organised in five different categories – gho (weaving), kira (weaving),...

Nov 04, 2017 07:29

Govt. to Waive Royalty for Tourists Visiting Eastern Bhutan

“Tourists visiting eastern dzongkhags need not pay the daily fee of USD 65 once the proposal comes through,” he said....

Nov 15, 2017 07:18

Traditional Process of Dyeing Woollen Yarns at Risk of Dying Out

The traditional method of dyeing woollen yarns to weave Yathra in Bumthang is hardly practiced today. Yathra weaving is...

Oct 13, 2017 06:44

Latest

News

Bhutan’s Satellite Deployed From ISS Along With Limited Edition Stamps Launched To Laud Event

Live-streamed on YouTube, representatives from various countries and institutes gathered at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in...

Aug 11, 2018 16:08

Daily Professional Fee Proposed For Tour Guides To Boost Tourism In Bhutan

Such an initiative is also thought to help boost the image of the profession in Bhutan and retain senior tour guides.

Aug 10, 2018 12:09

Features

In Commemoration Of World Elephant Day, Bhutan Records 678 Elephants, Up From 513 In 2011

There are 678 elephants in Bhutan, according to the second edition of the National Elephant Survey Report.

Aug 15, 2018 12:54

Discover Raju’s Passion For Making The Traditional Bhutanese Bow And Arrow

The class VI drop-out earns at least Nu 8,000 a month by making bows and arrows.

Aug 08, 2018 16:09

Sports

The Myriad Of Sporting Facilities Constructed In Bhutan To Promote Healthy Living

The government in its 11th FYP report stated that it undertook the development of various infrastructure and institutions to promote sports...

Jul 29, 2018 08:33

Adolescent Girls In Bhutan Learn About Health And Sanitation Through Weeklong District Cricket Championship

The national nutrition survey 2015 conducted by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Bhutan found anaemia in adolescent girls to be a critical...

Jul 21, 2018 16:29

Business

Start-up Centre In Bhutan Held Session To Provide Advice On Doing Business For Entrepreneurs

Guidance was provided during the first session on starting a business held at the newly established start-up centre at Changzamtog, Thimphu.

Aug 14, 2018 12:06

SDF To Develop E-Commerce Platform And Support Start-Ups In The South Asian Region

The SDF has already achieved and disbursed US$ 47mn for 12 cross-border projects.

Jul 24, 2018 09:03

Travel

About 91 % Of International Visitors Intend To Revisit Bhutan And 85 % Want To Recommend Nation Of Happiness To Others

The majority (80.4 %) of the international visitors expressed that the culture and traditional charm attracted them to Bhutan.

Aug 13, 2018 12:11

DrukAir To Fly Between Bhutan And Singapore Via Guwahati Starting Sept 1

The new flight will connect Paro to Singapore via Guwahati.

Aug 09, 2018 10:37

Lifestyle

Bhutanese Film 'Honeygiver Among The Dogs' To Make Singapore Debut At Buddhist Film Festival

"Honeygiver Among The Dogs" will be the first film by a Bhutanese director to be screened at the annual Buddhist film festival in Singapore.

Aug 16, 2018 11:16

Gokab – The First Dance Studio To Be Registered In Bhutan For Dancing Enthusiasts

Gokab, a youth group comprising of mostly dance enthusiasts, has seen a healthy growth of membership numbers since its inception in 2015.

Aug 12, 2018 15:44

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!