Royal Highland Festival brings highland communities together
The first Royal Highland Festival was held from 16 to 18 October. It brought together all highland communities of Bhutan in Laya village.
The festival was a unique opportunity for visitors to Bhutan, as well as the Bhutanese, to experience the highland way of life.
The festival enables the highland communities to socialize and exchange their culture heritages. And for the outsiders, it was perhaps the best way to experience the amazing culture of highland communities.
Dawa Dendup, 49, from Lingzhi said, “This festival is an absolutely unforgettable celebration of the culture and religion of highland.”
Yak herders from Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Gasa, Wangduephodrang, Trongsa, Bumthang, Lhuntse, Tashigang, and Tashi Yangtse displayed their animal products during the festival.
Hundreds of people across the country gathered at the festival and it was a chance to experience a different world, of yak-fur tents, their traditional songs, dances, and the living cultural heritage of the highlands.
Ap Norku, 55, from Merak said the festival brought happiness to the highland communities. “While we live in multi-cultural societies there must be a need to learn about other cultures and religions,” he said, adding that it would be advisable to understand some of the traditions.
Besides, the communities showcased their dogs, strongest couple contests, horse and yak shows, horse racing and cultural programme by students and highland communities.
Laya Gewog won the prize in horse racing while Merak-Sakteng secured second. Dorji Wangchuk and his partner from Pazhi Chiwog won the price in the strongest man competition on the final day.
The lottery prizes such as bows, yaks, rucksacks, mobile phones, tents, and air ticket to Bangkok, among others, were provided to the people of highland communities.
The three-day first livestock festival brought opportunities to earn from home stays owned by the Laya villagers. All visitors, including ministers, were lodged in home stays except for some officials and tourists.
Thinly Dem, 58, from Pazhi village said that the highland festivals are big business. She expects the home to remain centers of commerce. “There is money to be made in the festivals, for some promoters of our living,” she said.
While making money from home would bring a new life to the villagers. Thinley Dem said tourist trekkers are paid Nu.150 per night which is very low.
His Majesty graced the inaugural edition of the festival on 17 October and also visited the homes to meet the people living in scattered houses in the village.
On gentle hills above the Laya village, festival venue lies at an altitude of 4,000m above sea level where the stalls were housed in traditional woolen tent. The Laya village is located at an altitude of 3,800m above sea level.
The festival was jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, and Gasa Dzongkhag to promote the sustainable livelihood of highland communities.