Ura Yakchoe Festival
Once upon a time, it is believed that, the Ura Yakchoe festival was celebrated to appease and make offerings to the god of yak. It was a practice emerging from bonism, which was common before the advent of Buddhism in the 18th Century.
The festival continues to be named Yakchoe but it took a turn in terms of significance and practice. A similar practice called Yakla, which also appeases and celebrated the god of yak is celebrated each year in Ura in the seventh month of the Bhutanese calendar.
Spread over five days, Ura Yakchoe festival is a time for the community to come together to celebrate their spiritual heritage after farming works are over and harvest is ready. Located on the eastern parts of Bumthang, towards Mongar, the community is a picturesque sight from across the national highway. Typical two-story traditional houses, clustered around the village temple, and fields that extend to tree line, provides one with respite from cityscapes, lights, and traffic.
The community, like elsewhere in the country, is welcoming and hospitable.
During the festival celebrated starting from the third day of the third month of the lunar Bhutanese calendar, the holy dances of Shinji, Shannag, Ngachum, Damitsi and Jujing are performed at the Ura lhakhang.
These are dances that are also performed during the numerous tshechus celebrated in honour of the Guru Rinpoche, the 18th Century saint who introduced Buddhism to the country.
Ura Yakchoe is now celebrated in honour of a status of Chador, a manifestation of Vajrapani. He is a dharma protector, and one of the three protective deities surrounding the Buddha in Buddhist iconography.
The statue of Chador is brought from Gaden, Ura to bless the community and those who attend the festival. Legends have it that the statue is a gift from Guru Rinpoche to the people of Ura. The arrival of the statue is shrouded in mystery, but worshipped with faith, devotion and awe.
The relic, which is in possession of a family in Gaden village, is displayed during the festival. It is believed, ages ago, an old woman from the house was visited by a lama. The lama was not from the village and she did not recognize him. He asked her for some water. Being hospitable and kind, the woman fetched water for him, but when she returned he was nowhere in sight. Outside, at her doorsteps, was a sack. Inside the sack was a statue of Chador. The relic has been passed down from one generation to generation.