Ura Yakchoe

On the eve of the Ura Yakchoe, local men gather in a smoke-stained kitchen below Ura's hilltop monastery. Donning ancient aprons over their ghos, they busily begin to brew sinchhang, Bhutan's traditional barley beer. Outside, performers run through their steps for the following day's ritual dancese as villagers look on, cracking sunflower seeds and swapping gossip.

Many years ago, an elderly lady was sitting outside her house in Ura when a lama approached and asked her for a drink of water. When she returned with a cup, she discovered that the lama had disappeared, leaving a sack where he had been standing. Curious, she peered inside the sack and discovered a gorgeous statue of Chana Dorje — the bodhisattva Vajrapani, an intense manifestation of the power of all the Buddhas. The statue, still owned by the lady’s descendants, plays a key role in the festival, when days of dancing and drinking culminate in a procession that sees the statue carried down the valley to Ura Lhakhang.

The three-day Ura Yakchoe is one of Bumthang's most colorful festivals. Officially scheduled to start on the 12th day of the third lunar month — which usually falls in May — in practice, the festival date is only set a few weeks in advance. Be prepared for last minute adjustments when planning to visit this tsechu!