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Missing the nyilo greetings

While nyilo is celebrated the old way, it’is slowly fading with urbanisation

Festival: The evening is cold in Wang Danglo.  But Kencho Dorji, 12, is all prepared for the long evening ahead. Drowned in a thick jumper with hood, Kencho will be doing rounds in the village singing loh-leh or New Year greetings.

It is Nyilo, a day Kencho and his friends eagerly waited. With plastics, sacks and baskets in their hand, his friends join him. The first house is not far away and the boys start singing loh-leh ushering in the traditional New Year for the people of Wang.

From each house, the group receives gifts like rice, meat, butter, eggs, sugar, tealeaves and cheese. An elderly villager will help them prepare a picnic as they play archery and khuru on Nyilo.

“It is always fun during Nyilo,” Kencho Dorji says least bothered by the cold. “I have been singing loh-leh since I was nine when my elder brother started taking me along.”

Nyilo in Danglo, not very far away from the capital city, is still celebrated the old way. Although only a day is given, as public holiday to celebrate Nyilo, Kencho and his friends will celebrate at least three days or until they run out of rations they collected.

Not very far from Danglo, in Wang Sinmo, across the Wangchhu, Bago, 74, is happy to hear the children come to his house to sing loh-leh. “It is an important tradition,” he says. “I’m happy that the young children are keeping it alive.”

But closer to the capital, where the wings of urbanisation has encroached once rice-growing villages, the tradition of celebrating is changing like the landscape.

In Babesa, Rinchen, 73 have gathered with her children and grandchildren, but she is not happy. She lives on the top floor of a five-storied building. “The tradition of singing loh-leh is fading away,” she rues. “Young boys and girls are ashamed of going from house to house singing loh-leh.”

But that has nothing do with children, her eldest daughter, Tshering 47, chips in. “Those residing in rented house might not appreciate the tradition. They could take them to urchins with different intentions,” she says. “Going to one building with five floors could get them enough for a picnic although,” she remarks hinting on the shift in dwelling style.

Modernisation, increase in population and urbanisation were some of the reason why the tradition of singing loh-leh is fading especially in the capital, Rinchen said. “Concrete buildings have occupied the village’s archery range while youth like hanging out in jeans and party at night in the town.”

Some say it was not only children that did the loh-leh rounds. Men went around collecting rice and women used to do jahkor (potluck) after Nyilo, until recently. “All this is gone,” said Tshering.

Village elders, now a part of the city, say that singing loh-leh didn’t make any sense now when neighbours hardly see each other.  “It’s the duty of the elder generation to encourage children to do the loh-leh rounds in urban places because it is a tradition,” an elderly said.

Watching a khuru match at Namseling, Pema Dorji, 25, was celebrating Nyilo with his family yesterday. Pema Dorji lives in Thimphu and has come to his village in Namseling.

“Youth today are finding this tradition foreign or pretends to do so,” he said. “With many attractions, even my friends have forgotten the lyrics of the New Year greetings,” he said.

Thinley Zangmo

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