Bhutan is known for many of rich and colorful festivals. Every Dzongkhag has its own Tshechu to celebrate and rejoice. And of course many tourists come to watch and experience many of these festivals. Today, in urban Bhutan, we perform mask dances to entertain tourists; I am not sure if that is the culturally right thing to do. But I leave that to the experts to debate.
The good news is, we are now not restricting our definition of festivals to only those that celebrate the birth anniversaries of Guru Rinpoche. The term extends beyond its religious meaning and significance. We now have festivals for music, films, art, cattle, food, and nomads among many others.
Talking of the Literary Festival, Mountain Echoes is right around the corner. It will be held in Thimphu from August 20-23, 2015. It is a celebration of literature, the art and music. Make yourself available for some of the sessions if you are in Thimphu. Interestingly, this month the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest is introducing the first ever Mushroom Festival. And I am really looking forward to this fest, particularly because of my love for mushrooms. I would like to think the festival is organized to sensitize people on the edible mushrooms and sustainable collection.
And likewise we need to introduce many more such festivals.
We really need something called Public Toilet Festivals – at least once a year – an occasion for everyone to come out in the open and clean up the public toilets. This way we can create more awareness on the use and importance of public toilets in maintaining proper sanitation in the country. We also need Mountain Festivals to clean up the waste that are carelessly thrown in the mountainside and on the national highways. In this, we can also encourage people to plant trees in areas where tall trees are cut down.
Water Festivals will ensure that the water we drink is clean and safe. In that, we need to mobilize volunteers to clean up tanks or check on the quality of water that we consume. In the Drain Festivals, I envision residents cleaning up drains close to their apartments – at least once a year. That way we do not have to wait for the Municipal authority to do everything for us. In the Highway Festivals, we would have people cleaning the highways and creating awareness on road safety to the commuters. In Plastic Festival, we are looking at collecting discarded plastics. Since plastics are non-biodegradable, we need to take measures to put an end to plastic going to our environment.
All these festivals, just like our Tshechus or other festivals must essentially entertain people. We need to make people want to participate and contribute socially while they also have lots of fun. And in this I foresee many organizations, agencies and private institutions making their share of contribution to the society.
The whole idea is to make it trendier for people to come out and volunteer in socially useful activities.
Opinion by Nawang P Phuntsho
The writer works in an NGO and lives in Thimphu