Home Photography The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival: A Technicolor Himalayan Dream

The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival: A Technicolor Himalayan Dream

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Although I was a few rows behind the others, because I am tall enough, my smile caught her attention. I smiled at her and she looked into my eyes. I was glad to have met you, she said. I extended my hand, and she accepted. She was pleased to have me as her guest. It was the start of the 2017 Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival, and I had just met Queen Mother of Bhutan.

Our trip to Bhutan was planned with the intention of attending a festival. We had originally planned to attend one in Bumthang’s northern central district on December 3. However, to make room for that festival we would have to stay longer in Bhutan. We were able to adjust our travel dates slightly and include the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival on December 13.

Her Majesty, the Queen Mother Dorji Wangmo established the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival in 2011 to commemorate His Majesty King Father Jigme Sengye Wangchuck’s victory over Indian insurgents forces in 2003. This incident is also commemorated in the 108 memorial choirs Her Majesty ordered near the festival grounds. They pay tribute to the 108 soldiers who died in the 2003 wars.

Dochula Pass 108 chortens

The festival takes place at Dochula Pass, 3,100m (10,171ft), and is truly a Himalayan technicolor dream. Our time at the festival was filled with a variety of sounds and colors that were unfamiliar to our ears. It also featured the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas on a clear, crisp day.

There were victory dances and masked performers. The levitation master was there, as was the dickhead. This was a character that looked like a jester and had a penis on the top of his head ( read this). There were also dancers who moved so gracefully and powerfully, it reminded me of the whirling dervishes that I would like to see.

The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is the only one that has a fixed date. The festival is located on the road between Thimpu and Punakha. You can sit right next to the performers. You can also find folding chairs on the grass. Although the festival was quite crowded at the beginning, it cleared up after lunch. The festival was not as crowded in Bhutan as it is in major cities around the globe, and people are more polite and friendly.

The Queen Mother and other VIPs joined the festival grounds in the middle for a final dance at the end of the day. I could not just stand there, even though I wanted to. I was eventually led into the circle and asked to learn a Bhutanese dancing.

Dochula Druk Wangyel festival last dance

Slowly, the remaining people dispersed and we made our way back to the parking lot. Slowly, we stepped out of the bubble of enchantment to return to a normal day. Even though it was more than four years ago, I still feel the magic of that day.

These are some of the most memorable experiences you can have in Bhutan . Here are some photos from the 2017 Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival.

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