Trongsa, located in the black mountain range, is today witnessing a decline in authentic lifestyles passed down from generations.
It could have been a maiden experience for many visitors and youth who came to witness the recent two-day black mountain festival in Trongsa where residents of five gewogs exhibited ancient lifestyles, culture and traditions and arts and crafts, among others.
Residents say that it could be due to rapid modernisation, rural-urban migration, and the negligence of today’s youth to follow their parent’s footsteps.
Sitting inside his small tent made of yak fur, Gyeltshen, 70, from Nubi, said the yak herding culture is almost non-existent in his village.
Gyeltshen was with yaks from an early age and he was the only one to display yak products at the festival.
He recalled that many residents depended mainly on yaks a few decades ago to meet family expenses. “Today, only a few households in Nubi are with yaks. There is no charm.”
“Youth are not interested,” he said, adding that yak herding is a rewarding job as one can generate timely income by selling butter, cheese, fur, chugo (dried cheese), zoetey (fermented cheese) and meat.
He said that many today are into other activities such as vegetable cultivation, and construction work and some are in urban areas with their children and relatives. He said there is no issue of transportation today if residents revive yak herding culture.
The black mountain festival also displayed an indigenous dress called Pakey which is made out of wild nettle.
Pakey is an original costume of Jangbi, Wangling, and Phumzor villages of Langthel gewog. People of these communities are called lhops.
Pakey, which looks like the attire of Doyaps in Samtse, is diminishing today in these localities.
Karma Chezom, 32, from Jangbi, said that Pakey has now become an occasional dress that villagers only wear during the festivals. “It is time we revive this culture.”
She said that she didn’t even see her parents wearing Pakey.
However, Sherab, 47, from Wangling, said that the Tarayana Foundation in 2019 trained a few women of Langthel to weave Pakey. “I am optimistic, but convincing youth is difficult.”
The food habits of lhops are also not prevalent today. Back then, their diet comprised of meat and only wild vegetables.
Trongsa was also home to Tashi Gomang, especially in Nubi Gewog. Tashi Gomang literally means one with many auspicious doors. In Buddhism, Tashi Gomang is referred as the third of the eight types of choetens (stupa) associated with the life of Buddha. Tashi Gomang observes Buddha’s teaching which is believed as an auspicious door leading to enlightenment.
Sangay Wangchuk, a lone Tashi Gomang presenter at the festival from Nubi, said that the art of making Tashi Gomang has almost disappeared. “It could be due to the lack of interest of villagers and youth.”
He said that only a few residents keep this culture alive for tourists. “We need support to make it popular again.”
Residents also said that the culture of making earthen pots, bamboo and wood products is also declining in Trongsa. The traditional songs and dances are only popular among middle- and old-age people.