English | Dzongkha Monday, May 20, 2019

The Royal Highland Festival

Yeshi Nidup, Laya
Nov 5, 2018

With temperatures dipping below -2 degree Celsius, it was freezing cold as the Third Royal Highland Festival opened in Laya late last month. Light snowfall greeted the visitors to the festival.

The festival takes place at an altitude of 3800 metres above the sea level. Getting up there is not so easy as well, especially for those who are not much of a hiker. Visitors have to undertake a two-day journey on foot from the road point in Koina.

However, these factors, seemingly discouraging, are perhaps what make the festival more charming.

Introduced three years ago, the festival has been seeing a growing number of visitors, including both locals and tourists. And it is not hard to guess why.

It offers the visitors an opportunity to witness first-hand and also immerse into the lifestyle, culture and tradition of the highlanders. Highlanders from eight districts set up stalls showcasing various products, including arts and crafts, unique to their community.

In fact, the celebration of their way of life and culture is what remains at the heart of the Royal Highland Festival.

The highlanders largely depend on yak farming but its survival is under threat from other forms of livelihood making their way into the remote highland community. The festival, therefore, aims at ensuring the highlanders retain their old ways of life and livelihood.

“This is something we are trying to promote through the festival,” Gasa Dzongda Dorji Dhradhul said.

“As we all know, in the last couple of years before the start of the festival, the risk of highlanders migrating to lower lands grew. We want to stop that by promoting a vibrant socio-economic development in the highlands,” the Dzongda added.

Different government institutions set up stalls sharing new scientific methods of rearing yaks, horses and Bhutanese Mastiffs.

Inspired by His Majesty The King, the Royal Highland Festival is a landmark activity of the dzongkhag’s vision of “Good to Great Gasa”.

There are other attractions as well. Banks advertised their products and services. His Majesty The King’s Mobile Clinic Team provided free medical check-ups. Many highlanders at the festival rushed to get tested for HIV.

The visitors were entertained with various traditional songs and dances, and games and sports.

Tourists who visited the festival were all praises for it. They commended His Majesty’s noble vision for the highlanders.

“It’s really an opportunity to get into one of the most amazing scenes in Bhutan to celebrate their way of life,” Ritu Verma, a tourist, said.

“Bhutan is innovative and it’s really setting a standard for sustainable development and carbon negativity. I don’t think it should be treated as a museum but a model that can be replicated by other countries around the world,” Gabriel Cubbage from the US said.

The most important and endearing part of the festival, perhaps, is that it has the highlanders putting their hearts and souls into making it a success. It’s an event they wait for with much excitement.

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