The two-day Royal Highland Festival in Langothang, Laya that happened between October 23 and 24 saw highlanders from nine dzongkhags exhibit their unique traditions, lifestyle, and cultures.
Festival also gave the highlander some ideas of how they could prevent their traditions and cultures from vanishing. There were veterinary clinics to help the locals understand the sustained methods of livestock rearing and the fodder treatment. Langothang was filled with dome and local tents called Bja.
Bja might look hollow and transparent, but it is cold and rain proof.
Sangay Khandu, 19, from Laya, said that he saw the tent for the first time last year during the first Royal Highland Festival. “I heard about it, but had never seen one. It’s very unique.”
With development, some of the Bhutanese communities are losing their unique tradition and culture.
Sangay Khandu owns five horses and the festival is the time for him to make some income. “I make about Nu 4,000 per trip. At other times, my horses are engaged in carrying loads for tourist.”
The festival is a good opportunity for the highlanders to sell their livestock products.
One of the main attractions of this years festival was horse racing. It is the only time where the locals and spectators get to witness a horse race.
Believed to be one of the most ancient sports of the nomadic people, horse racing culture had almost vanished in the highlands.
Dawa Pem, 57, from Chongra said that she had never witnessed a horse race before. “This is my first time. We raise horse only for the porter services. Last year, I made about Nu 150,000 from porter service.”
Laya has a culture of organising local festival called Bongko and Chibee alternatively every year. Unlike the highland festival, though, they do not bring in many visitors.
Dawa Dem said: “The unique lifestyles, culture, and dress are the things that attract outsiders. It is important for us to preserve them. The festival reminds about the importance of preserving our culture.”
Highland festival is the only time when community youth are seen wearing formal dress. The unique dress of the Layap women is almost never worn today.
To make Laya a tourist destination, the first edition the highland festival contributed about Nu 5 million to the community last year.