Royal Highland Festival lifts spirits, creates friendships

Festival: The heavy rain-laden clouds parted and Laya turned golden under the sun’s warm embracing rays.

The valley was drenched in heavy rain until the eve of the first day of the festival.

The three-day Royal Highland Festival that saw hundreds of highlanders and both local and international tourists ended yesterday.

The first livestock festival, an initiative of the Gasa dzongkhag administration, came at an appropriate time for the people of Laya.

One of the major income sources of the Layaps, cordyceps, failed this year bringing gloom and despair after years of successful collections.

Sangay from Tongra village earned only about Nu 40,000 this season from cordyceps sales. “For the second year, we have had bad harvests and we’re relying on other means such as porterage,” he said.

Villagers said the festival brought opportunities to earn from porterage and home stay making up for the lost income from cordyceps.

Except for some officials, all visitors were lodged in home stays including ministers.

The gentle hills above the villages of Laya reverberated with music, cheers and cries of rapture as dog shows, strongest couple contests, horse and yak shows, and cultural programmes by school children unfolded.

The festival brought much happiness for the highlander team from Trashigang.

The 13 herders from the gewogs of Merak and Sakteng in Trashigang secured the second position in the horse and yak decor bagging Nu 0.2 million in prize money.

A nomad from Merak, Lobzang Tashi, said that he came across a lot of other good-natured highlanders from across the country.

“It’s interesting that we do the same thing in so many different ways and learning such knowledge is our take-away from the festival,” Lobzang said.

Most of highlanders said they never imagined they could visit Laya and discover a rich diversity of culture in various highlander communities.

Highlanders said they have new friends and wonderful memories of their stay in another highlander’s place.

Yak herders from 11 dzongkhags displayed their dairy, and other animal products and took part in numerous contests.

Lottery prizes such as mobile phones, rucksacks, compound bows, yaks, and air tickets to Bangkok, among others, were provided to the public.

The venue for the festival,  where every stall was housed in a traditional woollen tent, was located more than 4,100m above sea level.

The festival was jointly organised by the agriculture ministry, as part of its highland development programme, and Gasa dzongkhag.

Tshering Palden | Laya

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