Chimi Dema | Soe
In the country’s smallest gewog located at the base of Mount Jomolhari, more than 300 people gathered to attend the seventh Jomolhari mountain festival on October 14.
Without any festivals in the locality like in other parts of the country, people from Naro and Lingzhi gewogs as well as Yaktsa and Nubri villages of Tsento gewog in Paro walk for hours to witness the festival.
Dressed in traditional costume, Mindu Gyem, 73, from Lingzhi gewog walked about six hours to perform boedra at the festival.
She said she wished if similar festival could also be organised in her gewog.
The Jomolhari festival started since 2013 to encourage snow leopard conservation through community participation.
According to Soe gup Kencho Dorji, the festival was initiated to create awareness among the highlanders to conserve the species, which was killed in the past as it is seen as a threat to the livestock.
While the exact population of the snow leopard is not known, the species moving down in vulnerable group from threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list indicates the conservation success in the northern frontiers of the country.
“In addition, the festival is also expected to promote eco-tourism opportunities in the locality,” the gup said.
According to local people, the number of tourists visiting for the festival is increasing every year, which helps them to generate income.
The theme this year is “Celebrating the harmonious co-existence between the highlanders and Snow Leopard: the ghost of high mountains”.
The first day started at Dangochong, Soe gewog centre, with the recitation of Zhabten for His Majesty The King.
There were native cultural programmes of highlanders, horse race and entertaining activities.
The second day was a hike to the base of Jomolhari and Jichudrakey and visit to Tshophu Lake. Other traditional dances and sports were also organised.
Meanwhile, business has picked up for some local vendors. Food and souvenir stalls were prepared to display local edible items and other products.
A group of men organised horse and yak riding for the guests and tourists.
Health minister Dechen Wangmo, who was the chief guest, highlighted the importance of preserving the unique culture and tradition in the country as well as environment conservation.
As a part of the festival, health awareness and screening programme was also organised for the highlanders, targeting mainly women to screen for cervical cancer by Thimphu dzongkhag in collaboration with Bhutan Foundation and health ministry.
The national veterinary hospital, Menjong Sorig Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited, Bank of Bhutan and National Biodiversity Centre had opened stalls to offer doorstep services to the highlanders.
Sponsored by the government and Tourism Council of Bhutan, the festival is coordinated by Lingzhi drungkhag in collaboration with Soe gewog administration.
The festival is also co-sponsored by Bhutan Foundation, Bhutan for Life, Bank of Bhutan and Menjong Sorig Pharmaceutical.
The festival was formally initiated in 2013 by Jigme Dorji National Park which had also spearheaded the celebration until 2017.
The two-day festival ended yesterday.