Chhimi Dema  

“The deity of yaks, please come. Please come.” 

Kungla, a yak herder, holding a staff on the lush herding ground in Ura, Bumthang, calls the yak deity for blessings and prosperity of his family and his cattle. He shakes the staff firmly and drags it inside the shed, a sign of inviting the deity to his home.

This ritual is part of the Yak Lha ritual in Ura. Not long ago, all the yak herding families practised the ritual. Today, it is only Kungla’s family that is keeping the culture alive.

The ritual was captured in a video as part of the Loden Foundation’s effort to immortalise the intangible cultures of Bhutan. It was screened yesterday during the launch of 10 documentaries showcasing the diverse and rich intangible cultures from parts of Bhutan.

The initiative led by Loden Foundation was supported by the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO in South Korea.

The documentaries under the initiative captured Lhop Festivals, Local Teeth Healing, Subba and Mongar’s Marriage System, Sang: A Women Festival, Yak Lha, Namkha Namsey Festival, Bjawa Kam Nyaru, Jomja: A Local Cuisine, Story of Pawos, and Mani: The Hymn.

Loden Foundation’s founder, Dr Karma Phuntsho (PhD) said that the country is experiencing a cultural change which is fundamental and far-reaching from all the other shifts or changes.

For the country to find a smooth and harmonious process of change, he said, it has to take into account the importance of cultural roots – balancing modernity with tradition.

Loden Foundation, since 2013, supported 56 cultural projects in the country. Through the Loden Culture programme, more than four million pages of text were digitalised; 3,267 hours of audio-visual content were recorded, and five cultural sites were protected.

An official from the Loden Foundation Culture team said that the country is losing its culture and traditions to globalisation and people leaving the country.

“People need to know that these changes are happening sometimes unconsciously and we will not see how much we are losing until it is too late,” the official said.