Day 16: Jakar Tsecho – Nhang Lhakhang


Our morning started out with breakfast and packing up before we met our guide. We moved on today from Bumthang after the morning at the Tsecho, so time to pack up the car!

We arrived at the main courtyard of the Jakar Dzong to see this morning’s dances. The clowns were out in full force today, as this would be the biggest day of the festival.

The event started with the reincarnation of the 2nd Bhudda doing a dance to cleanse the space of negativities for the performers and audience.

Reincarnation of the 2nd Bhudda opening the dances with a cleansing of the courtyard.
A young monk with his brother eagerly awaits the events of the day

Next all of the 8 reincarnations of the 2nd Bhudda, plus the second Bhudda and his consort came into the courtyard. While the character of the second Bhudda sat in splendour with his attendants, each of the reincarnations did their dance to represent their purpose here. Amazing costumes, colours and energy was demonstrated.

The 2nd Bhudda was the last character to enter the courtyard. Here you see him being led by a couple of young monks dressed as his consorts.
Each reincarnation took centre stage one at a time for their particular dance.
The movement and vibrancy of colour was truly amazing.
Look at the children in the windows above the dancers. The large circles under them are huge horns which are blown during this dance and heard throughout the valley!

The crowd gathered was the largest yet, and equally outfitted in their finest!

Everyone was jammed in, and yet if another family arrived people made room for them. They were all here to enjoy the festival!
Here’s a little boy, dressed in the national dress, trying to get back to his family
At one point the dignitaries all lined up to receive their blessings. While dressed in a very expensive silk hand woven Gho, I was equally impressed with the national shoes worn to accompany the costume.

This dance was performed by the monks and they were accompanied by the instruments as well as chanting and some folk songs.

Folk singers lined up with musicians to accompany this very important dance.

The clowns did their job entertaining the crowd as well as helping with the costume malfunctions during this long and complex dance.

The clowns were busy with this very active dance, helping dancers as they had costume malfunctions. This one had just finished tightening the mask of the dancer in front of him.

When the dancing was done, the dancers (monks) all took their places on either side of the Bhudda figure. The people ( assembled in the largest crowds yet) all began to line up and walk down the line of masked deities. With mouths and noses covered (so as not to contaminate the blessings) they received blessings from each one of the monks. It reminding me of the line up for blessing ( communion) at Santiago de Compostela in Spain when we walked the Camino. Almost everyone came forward to receive their blessing.

Blessing being bestowed on each person who so desired.
People leaving the courtyard to get into the long line to receive their blessings.

Near the end of this session, Dan and I decided to stretch our legs and head out to the outer courtyard. The seating isn’t the most comfortable, and the crowds were continuing to grow.

In the outer courtyard, I met a young family attending the Tsechu and was able to speak with them for a while. I learned that the mother in the picture has a husband who has just left to go to Australia for university for 2 years! A difficult sacrifice to make a better world for your family and country!

The beautiful silk Kira’s (skirts or under dresses) are very expensive indeed. This whole family is outfitted in their finest!

We soon met Kencho and headed off for lunch. One lunch was over we got in the car for a 2 hour ride that would take us about 10-11 km up the valley to the farm stay where we would spend the night. As Dan observed, the dear driver Penjor hardly ever got a chance to take the car out of 1st gear.

Two little boys outside the restaurant playing archery with homemade bows and arrows.

The sights were indeed stunning as we drove up the valley. The crystal clear glacier like water in the river was such a pristine site. Beautiful vistas all around us!

Sheer beauty and peace found here

As we drove we chatted about the current royal family. While the 4th king is still alive, he abdicated to his son on the occasion of his 60th birthday. His young son, the 5th king, is married (to only one woman as opposed to his father who ha 4 wives) and a young son and heir. When we spoke about multiple wives, it appears that the 4th king is the only person who has multiple wives, and there is great encouragement to the 5th king to stick with just one. Then Kencho told us that in the nomadic tribes in the far north of Bhutan it was not unusual for women to take on 2 husbands. This was done as 1 husband would be off with the herd half the year, and the other husband ( usually a brother) would stay at home to look after the home care and work around the farm. When the 1st husband returned, the other would go off with the herds. Nowadays, this is less and less common! (Most women I know would enjoy the break!!)

Our conversations in the car with Kencho are always so interesting and educational. We talk about the pressures brought to Bhutan by the explosive growth of urbanization and tourism balanced with the massive increase in education and healthcare for all. Not a perfect system, but one that involves all aspects before major policy or decisions are made. A very thoughtful government looking to truly benefit the long term care of their people.

We soon arrived at our home stay. A beautiful farm that lay overlooking the Chokar Valley that travels north of Bumthang / Jakar. Our stay is much more rustic as expected, but the warm hospitality and welcoming atmosphere more than make up for any inconveniences. We’re backcountry campers after all! This is a palace compared to where we’ve stayed!

Our homestay for the night in Nhang Lhakhang a rustic village just 11 km north of Jakar. It took us over 2 hours to get here!
Our room. Lots of covers to keep us warm!
Our living dining room for the night. It’s filled with pictures of the royal family, considered to be gods in their own right.

After a short rest, Dan and I decided to go out for a walk and explore the area. We went further up the road until it stopped and was replaced by a well travelled walking path. We even met some farmers transporting goods from a village via horseback. Given the length of time it took us to drive a distance, the walking / horseback would probably be much faster!!

A farm building in this valley
Farmers transporting goods via horseback through the pass.

When we came back from our walk, it was almost supper time. I learned that the Bhutanese eat very late; between 7-9, and the children stay up until 9 or 10 pm!

Before we began our dinner, the power went out. I went up to our room and retrieved my flashlight, nicknamed “the Light of Galadriel”. It help brighten the room, along with candles and a flashlight from the owners. All was good and we had a delightful meal and evening!

Kencho regaling stories over dinner
Dan and I by candlelight

Well it has been a long day, and we must get rested for our hike over Phephe La pass tomorrow. Until then!

Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019

2 comments

  1. I saw a news report on TV which was about the National Happiness Commission of Bhutan. That and the pictures reinforced for me how lucky you are to be visiting this magic place. Love your reports! 🐻🧸❤️

    Like

  2. The colours are amazing; sounds like you are having a wonderful time!

    Liked by 1 person

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