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A festival that is beyond tourism

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yak25feb13Guess weight: Yaks make their way into an area hedged by fences for visitors outside it to guess their weights during the fourth nomad’s festival in Bumthang

The festival has been seeing a decline in visitors over the years

4th nomad’s fest: Despite decrease in the number of visitors including tourists, park officials and nomads claim that the nomad’s festival has increased the understanding on the importance and challenges of the country’s highlanders.

To make people understand the importance of living in the highlands, some 105 nomads from eight dzongkhags came together at the Wangchuck centennial park in Nagsephel, Bumthang for the fourth nomad’s festival on February 22 and 23.

The festival that brought together nomads from Thimphu, Bumthang, Wanduephodrang, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Haa, Paro, Gasa saw over 300 visitors and about 14 tourists.

According to nomads, while the number of visitors to the festival has been decreasing, the festival was not just about the number of tourists or local visitors but also, about creating a better understanding of the nomadic life.

Park manager D S Rai said apart from attracting tourists during lean season, the main objective of the festival was for people to understand the difficulties the nomads faced, appreciate culture, share experiences, educate nomads and provide the nomads a platform to exchange ideas.

“In the last four festivals, we were able to make people understand the life of nomads, the nomads understand the importance of living in the highlands and preserving the source of hydropower,” D S Rai said. “The objective of this festival is beyond tourism.”

The manager said they are trying to retain the nomads in the highlands by making them understand their responsibilities and by educating them on environment and eco-system management.

Sixty-three year-old Rinzin Nima had come from Tashiyangtse for the second time for the festival with traditional bags, chugo, beachap and jatsha.

Rinzin Nima said it was an opportunity the government gave him to meet new nomadic friends. “I’m looking forward to participate next year also and I’d come with more products,” he said.

While another participant Phurba, 61, from Choekor, Bumthang said with not many visitors, his products are not selling well.

During the two-day festival, the nomads performed various traditional dances, yak shows, yak and horse riding, quiz competition on livestock and traditional sports among others besides showcasing and selling their products.

There were about 25 stalls exhibiting nomadic products from the eight dzongkhags with a stall each for organic farming, indigenous products, Bhutan telecom, health, national mushroom centre, national dairy development centre, animal health for human wealth, Ugyen Wangchuck institute and nature recreation and eco-tourism division. Wangchuck Centennial Park and the department of forests and parks services organised the festival.

By Sonam Choden, Bumthang

One Comment to “A festival that is beyond tourism”
  1. Molly Patton | February 26th, 2013 at 13:21:49

    This sounds like such a wonderful opportunity. These are the sorts of events I really enjoy. I would love to come see the traditions of the nomadic people of Bhutan. I hope next year’s festival attracts more visitors. Good luck.

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