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Festival on the rooftop of the world dedicating to Bhutan’s exotic National Animal

The journey through the roughest of the nature can get was worth given the grandeur of the Takin Festival 2011. The carnival held at Lunguthang, a suitable plateau above Laya village at an altitude of 3800 metre above sea level was the highest any such festival could go. Nonetheless, the festival harnessed huge success, both from service provider and client’s perspectives.

"The chill of the thin Lunguthang mountain air didn’t dissuade the eager spectators of the festival"

The chill of the thin Lunguthang mountain air didn’t dissuade the eager government officials, private representatives, local communities and foreigners alike from indulging themselves in the gala festivity. Some have walked more than a week to reach the carnival ground. They’ve traversed conquering mountains and vales albeit aggravation by the harsh and merciless summer weather. But propelled by the burning desire to witness the splendor of the festival, they’ve inched to the Lunguthang. The members of the communities have been equally and eagerly awaiting the D-day.
Layaps performing their traditional dance during the festival
After formally launching the fair with Marchhang ceremony, the Director of Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS), Mr. Karma Dukpa in his welcome address, besides extending his warm welcome, introduced the park to the guests. He also relayed the message of Hon’ble MoAF Minister of his regret for not being able to join the festival. He added, “Our Hon’ble Minister has always shared his personal concern of ensuring the positive livelihood of the highlanders.”

Mr. Kezang Wangdi, Director General of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) who was the chief-guest for the occasion praised the place for being the land blessed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He counted himself lucky to have had the coveted privilege to visit the place where all natural and cultural heritage are intact. He asked the natives to continue taking care of such rich and unspoiled environment and cultures.

"The festival is to help natives continue taking care of  rich and unspoiled mountain environment and culture"

The first day of the Takin festival saw the opening of the different stalls showcasing information and technologies that are very much relevant to the highland farmers. The stalls were put up by different departments and agencies both within and outside the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests such as Research and Development Centres, National Post-Harvest Centre, DoFPS, National Mushroom Centre and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The day also witnessed opening of many traditional games such as dego (a traditional Bhutanese game wherein somewhat circular stones that can fit into a person’s palm is thrown at a certain distance where a point is marked by a stick pegged into the ground), Khuru competitions among the guests (a wooden dart thrown to a decorated wooden target), Soksum competition (a stick pointed on both sides thrown to a decorated target).

The uniqueness of the festival was demonstration of yak tethering and Wortha by the yak herder. Wortha is a rope woven out of yak hair which is used to throw stones at yaks to assemble them or drive away yaks and predators. The cultural program by Layaps stretched into the late evening of the day.

The exhibition stalls remained opened for the second day flocking with eager officials and farmers, while dances and traditional games kept on happening on the sidelines. The wrestling competition (wrestling is a game played usually among men to show their strength and fighting skill), Colourful Shazam Cham (stag dance which portrays the subjugation of the Wind god by Guru Rinpoche), performing of Genzhey (unique dance introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th Century to the people of Gasa) demonstration of Layaps Aulay (Aulay is a unique social networking song sung only by people of Laya and is celebrated once in a year for about a week. People get to visit each and every house but women hide their identity by covering up their whole body with clothes) were the new inclusion of the day.

The tug of war competition between different groups winded up the festival before finally awarding the winners of the different events with prizes by the chief-guest. However, the cultural programme continued till as with every successful event, it ended with rounding up for Tashi Lebey. The community members ignored the evening harshness of the Laya weather to watch the documentary films.

"The festival is dedicated to the significance, importance of Takin - the National Animal which is found in their summer habitat of Tsharijathang" 

Mr. Phuntsho Thinley, the Chief Forestry Officer of JDNP summed up saying the festival was the huge success in the way that it fulfilled all the objectives of initiating such grand event. He said, “Officials on walk could get the clear picture of the field realities of the park and also interact with the communities which will be translated into favourable plan and polices. He added that the festival also helped communities make incomes through sale of yak and other local products to the foreigners and guests”.
The Takin festival was organized by Jigme Dorji National Park under DoFPS of MoAF with sponsorship of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). It was the first time such festival was held and will be an annual feature.

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