4th Edition Of Laya’s Royal Highland Festival Saw More Tourists And Participants

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The Royal Highland Festival helps to preserve the age-old traditions of the highlanders.

(Source: Facebook/Royal Highland Festival)

 

By Changa Dorji BBS

In its fourth year, the Royal Highland Festival has come as a boon for the people of Laya Gewog (village) in Gasa. Highlanders from around 10 districts take part in this annual event.

The locals said that the festival has contributed significantly to boosting the community’s socio-economic conditions. Otherwise a quiet and remote village, Laya turns into a hub of celebration once a year.

People from all walks of life gather to celebrate the Royal Highland Festival, which showcases the highlands as the pride of Bhutan.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering graced the opening ceremony of the festival this year.

Benefits which the festival brought to the locals

It is around this time that layaps are the busiest. Many host guests in their homestays while others are occupied at the festival marketing local products to the visitors. The hiring of horses is another trade that is most lucrative during the festival.

“The income from hiring depends on the number of horses one owns. People earn between  Nu 10,000 to 50,000. Similarly, those running homestays make around Nu 30,000 to 70,000 during the festival. Moreover, the event has helped significantly in improving hygiene in the locality,” said Lhakpa Tshering, the Laya Gup.

 

Source: Facebook/Royal Highland Festival

 

“Compared to past years, the festival has improved and we are receiving more number of participants and visitors. We get an allowance for bringing our cattle and horses to the festival. Although it costs the government paying us, for the highlanders, the festival has benefitted us immensely,” Kinley Dorji said.

“We set up stalls during the festival which helps us make some extra money. I already sold many of my products to the visitors this time. I feel the festival has brought positive changes to our community,” Leki said.

According to the National Council member of Gasa, the festival has also encouraged people to live in their village.

“We are aware of the problems of the absentee household or rural-urban migration in other districts. But here in Laya gewog, we do not face such problems. Instead, the number of households here has been increasing annually. Our people’s lives have changed positively after dealing with visitors,” MP Dorji Khandu explained.

Various highlights of the festival

The two-day festival, which was held last week (from 23-24 October 2019), is also a celebration of the culture of yak rearing.

 

Source: Facebook/Royal Highland Festival

 

Yak and horses are important animals for the people of the highalnds. Yak butter flavours tea, yak milk, cheese and sparingly, yak meat feature in the diet of the people.

Yak hair is used for clothing and to make sturdy ropes and tents. Yak are also sturdy animals, thriving where even mules struggle to reach certain places.

The highland dances and songs are themed around Yak, and often tell of the deep bonds that the people share with their animals.

Yaks are brought from as far as Trashigang during the cattle show. They are adorned with various ornaments, highlighting the richness of the culture and traditions in the highlands.

Besides being a good source of income, the Royal Highland Festival also helps to preserve the age-old traditions of the highlanders.

 

Photo: Facebook/Royal Highland Festival

 

Various indigenous songs and dances were performed during the event. Laya Run, a 25-kilometre run was also held, along with other sports.

A gift from His Majesty The King, the Royal Highland Festival was introduced on 16th October 2016 to mark the birth of His Royal Highness the Gyalsey, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s arrival into the country in 1616 AD and Rabjung, the 60 year-circle of Guru Rinpoche’s birth year.

 

This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.

 

 


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