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Popular religious festival or Tshechu in Bhutan - Nomad Festival

Nomad Festival - Popular Festivals in Bhutan

The annual ‘Nomad Festival’ is held in the month of February at Nagsephel, in Tang valley of Bumthang, bringing together nomadic highlanders from Bhutan’s north-west and north-east Himalayan frontiers. The highlanders from Lingshi, Laya, Gasa, Lunana, Sakteng, Bomdeling, Haa and Bumthang congregate, to celebrate their unique & rich culture and traditions.nomad-festivals Bhutan

The two major nomadic communities of Bhutan, the ‘Brokpas’ in the east and the ‘Layaps’ in the west, inhabit some of the most rugged terrain in the kingdom. Their economy still mainly consists of ancient bartering practices and is heavily dependent upon their yaks and the products they derive from it such as milk, meat, wool, cheese and leather. In recognition of this interdependency, the yak features prominently in many of the nomadic festivals and celebrations.

The sounds of cymbals, drums, horns, the blowing of conch shells and bells fill the festival site, celebrating unique culture & traditions of proud nomadic communities. There are ever energetic mask dancers also in brightly coloured costumes performing sacred dances dating back to eight centuries.

The festival is a special occasion to get an intimate glimpse into the proud nomadic communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Visitors get an opportunity to dine on delicious traditional recipes whilst sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as nomadic families have done for ages, dress like a Bhutanese highlander and try on an entire costume spun from yak hair, including the Brokpa black hat with five long fringes down the front or the conical bamboo Layap headgear. Ladies can wear the wide, beautiful hand-woven aprons decorated with colorful motifs of flowers and animals traditionally worn by women. They can even have their hair plaited and decorated with colorful ribbons in the traditional style of the region. The festival also offers an opportunity to witness the grand pageantry of the Chipdrel, a ceremonial procession usually reserved for royalty. Other unique experiences for visitors are yak riding, immersing themselves in the festival-wide demonstrations of traditional Bhutanese village life including using ancient mill-stones to grind maize, husking harvested rice and tilling fields with ox-drawn ploughs.

Traditional sports at the festival make festival occasion even more joyful such as Keyshey (traditional Bhutanese wrestling), Khuru (darts), archery, Soksum (light javelin throwing), Dego (similar to throwing horseshoes but with stones), tug of war. Visitors are also welcome to participate in any of the sports.

Nomad festival is also the time to sample the nomadic twist on Bhutan’s classic ema datshi. This fiery, cheesy dish is accompanied by highlander staples made from maize and buckwheat flour. Visitors may also be interested to try some Pin, a fragrant and spicy roll stuffed with flat onions (Ram in Dzongkha) cheese, chili powder and local spices. This delicacy is unique to the region and is extremely popular amongst the locals. Also, can experience the simple delectability of buckwheat pancakes coated in generous helpings of melted butter and served with ema datshi.

The festival venue is also interesting place to shop for some of the most exquisitely made Bhutanese handicrafts along with opportunity to  witness skilled artisans breathing life into bronze statues, blacksmiths utilizing their timehoned skills to forge beautiful and lethal swords, potters crafting delicate vessels and much more!

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