Black Necked Crane Festival

 

The Annual Black-necked Crane festival will be celebrated in the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa, in Phobjikha valley on 11thNovember 2011. The festival is an occasion for the locals to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of the heavenly bird which becomes part and parcel of their daily lives during the winter months. However the annual black-necked crane festival is organized with the following objectives:
• Generate awareness and understanding among the local communities and visitors on the importance of conserving the endangered Black‐necked cranes
• Institute economic incentives (payment) for the festival to strengthen the linkages between conservation and economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods
• Provide avenue for the local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the black-necked cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.

The festival generally includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and mask dances performed by the local people, crane dance and environmental related drama and songs by the school children.  The program usually starts by 9:30 am and lasts till late afternoon.The festival will be organized by Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local group composed of elected local leaders, women, Government representatives, business community representatives, monks and RSPN representative.  The festival was first initiated by RSPN in 1998, and it has now become a part of the local culture in Phobjikha valley.

The organizers would like to welcome everyone to experience the festival, visit the Gangtey Gonpa and see the beautiful black-necked cranes. Be a part of the festival and reward the community for their continued conservation stewardship.

Background

Nestled in the inner Himalayas of the Kingdom of Bhutan at about 3000 metres above sea level, is the wide alpine wetland valley of Phobjikha. The wetland is considered the largest and the most significant wetland in the country. Often cited for the harmonious co‐existence of its inhabitants with nature, the valley is also culturally significant. Since time immemorial, the local people’s tradition and respect for sentient beings have ushered the valley into the most significant wintering ground of the rare and endangered Black‐necked cranes in Bhutan. Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to Bhutan spend their winter months in this valley. Additionally, the highly revered Gangtey Monastery that overlooks the wetlands surrounded by subsistence farms and natural forest areas makes Phobjikha a stunningly beautiful and sacred valley. Today, this supposedly glacial valley is an attraction not just to tourists but also pilgrims.

Besides being the home to the cranes, Phobjikha is also the livelihood base for about 5000 subsistence farmers who have aspirations for economic development. Since the early 1990s, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), Bhutan’s only environmental NGO envisaged that unguided pursuit of the local community for economic development could not only severely undermine the ecological significance of the area but also adversely affect the local livelihoods.
Hence, RSPN initiated the integrated conservation and development program with the sole objective of establishing a strong linkage between environment conservation and economic welfare of the local people. Amongst many other components, Ecotourism (now Community based-sustainable tourism) was initiated to promote local economic welfare through nature based tourism programs. The Annual Black-necked Crane festival is one integral part of the ecotourism component.

The Annual Black-necked Crane Festival
The festival is now being organized and managed by the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC), a local community group composed of elected leaders and development sector representatives in the valley. The committee secures the cooperation and support of the local people and the schools in presenting a variety of cultural programmes including traditional masked and folk dances. The most amusing and entertaining part of the show that attracts the attention of the audience is the crane dance in which the school children enact the social behavior of cranes in the valley.
The success of the festival and its continuity depends entirely on the support and contributions of the visitors and well wishers of conservation. Continued appreciation and corresponding support are quintessential in maintaining strong linkages between conservation and economic welfare of the local people. Be a part of the festival and reward the community for continued conservation stewardship. Funds mobilized through this Black-necked crane festival and other activities of the committee are deposited in a community owned bank account and managed by the committee for activities of common benefit to the community.


Wangdue Phodrang Festival

 

Wangdue Phodrang in central Bhutan is known for the Lozeys or the ornamental speeches. Some of the notable lozeys are the sorrows of Gaylong Sumdar Tashi, who was sent as a monk and that of Pemai Tshewang Tashi who served as an official at the Dzong. The Dzong serves as the administrative centre and was built in 1639 by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel at the confluence of Puna Tsang chu.

The annual Wangduephodrang Tshechu was introduced by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after the completion of the dzong. The three-day annual Tshechu is witnessed by people from Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha and Thimphu and provides the people with an occasion to partake in entertainment and revelry. The Tshechu is known for the Raksha Mangcham or the dance of the Ox. It concludes with the unfurling of the Guru Tshengye Thongdroel where people throng to receive blessings.