Is TV killing Bhutan’s festive spirit?

Is a modern Bhutan losing interest in local religious festivals? An editorial in Bhutan’s government paper believes so.

There were not many locals at the Paro dzong courtyard where the annual tsechu was going on.

Like one Thimphu resident who returned after the first day said, there were just as many locals as there were tourists. This is not a trend isolated to Paro alone, but one that has been noticed in many other festivals across the country, more so in dzongkhags surrounding the capital city.tsechu

Local festivals, especially tsechus, besides being a religious event to feel blessed and cleansed of sins, “were” an occasion for social interaction, celebration and a feast, including for the eyes.

They “were” because it is not with the same gusto that people look forward to these auspicious occasions any more as did those of the earlier generations.

It is no longer about a day a family would prepare weeks in advance, borrow the best of clothes, dry and save meat for the occasion, sometimes even borrow stocks from neighbours or relatives at the last minute and walk to the open courtyards of a dzong before sunrise.

That feeling of gusto has been replaced with the feeling of loath – the need to queue up at the entrance, lack of parking space, the need to squeeze in through crowds of people to find a place and finally finding one under the scorching heat of the sun.

It is no longer about family get-togethers, meeting friends and witnessing, what tourists visiting the country calls an open theatre play.

In this day and age, when people are growing fonder of material pursuits, family gatherings are no longer a priority. They are just a call away. Friends can be met online on social networking sites to share interests and to confide in. Festivals can be watched live on television without hassles, but within the comforts of one’s own home.

Argument of one’s physical presence at the tsechu venue to see and be able to recognise various types of masks and dances to be blessed and cleansed of sins does not hold anymore.

They are better seen on the silver screen to be better identified and in fact feel more blessed.

A bit on the extreme side, but like one tour operator observed, if these local festivals are still alive today and if they continue to stay on, the credit should go to the foreigners they bring in.

While we look to the developed nations and to ape or embrace their ways of life and  have foreigners admire the display of our “hard protected” culture, they fear we may be on the verge of losing them.

Should that fear come true, it would be something too dear and costly to lose.

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Posted by on April 18, 2014. Filed under Bhutan,Breaking News,SOUTH-ASIA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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