Chhimi Dema

At this time of the year, the busy construction sector would be celebrating the Vishwakarma Puja to mark the birth anniversary of lord Vishwakarma or the divine architect in the Hindu mythology.

This year, conspicuously missing are the sounds of hailing lord Vishwakarma, the dancers dancing to blaring Bollywood music and spectators rushing from one site to another. Apart from the decorated altars at automobile workshops, furniture units and construction site, there is no grand celebration as workers and owners adhere to the Covid-19 safety protocols.

“The celebration is bleak,” said Dawa Sangay, an automobile mechanic.  “I miss the celebrations from the previous years. They were dancing and singing till midnight.”

A workshop owner at Olakha, Karma Tenzin, said that given the current situation it was best to observe the spiritual part and forget the celebrations.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs on September 14 notified workshops proprietors to avoid a large gathering, movement and celebration while observing the day.

The much-awaited Vishwakarma Puja among those in the construction sector is one of the many festivals and activities that Bhutanese will miss this year as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced to cancel, defer or change in observing or celebrating them.

The 6th Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition in Haa could not attract flower lovers as the festival had to be held virtually in June. The Tour of the Dragon-an ultra-marathon mountain bike race was deferred to September 4, next year. The much-awaited Snowman Race was finally pushed to October 13 next year.

In Thimphu, where the Lhamoi Dromchoe heralds the festive season, the Dratshang had announced that both the Dromchoe and the three-day tshechu will be held behind closed doors. The Wangdue tshechu also falls around the same time as the Thimphu tshechu.

The charm of getting together for picnics on the Blessed Rainy day, on September 23, will also be lost, as gatherings are discouraged because of the pandemic.

The festive season is also the “peak tourist” season with the tshechus attracting thosuands of tourists.

“The autumn season is the time to show the true colours of Bhutanese culture to the tourists,” said a tour guide from Thimphu. “In the current situation, life is getting challenging by the day. I miss interacting with tourists and showing them around our country.”

According to the tourism council of Bhutan’s annual statistical publication, 315,599 tourists visited the country last year. 

The highest tourists arrived in May with 47,118 individuals and 46,325 individuals in October.

The lowest number of tourists arrived in July (13,1291 individuals)  and August (12,492 individuals).