Bhutan Ura Yakchoe Festival

18 images 1 contributors Shoot freely

Sue Wolfe

About this spot
Yakchoe Festival should be on your list of Bhutan photo ops and is one of the most popular cultural events in the country of “Gross National Happiness.” It is the highlight of Ura’s social calendar and is celebrated to bring happiness, better harvest, and prosperity to the village. The festival begins the 12th day of the third lunar month and runs for 5 days. [The dates will vary but an April/May timeframe. At this time of year, you may also catch the trees blooming.]

During the event, all villagers stop their farm work to participate in the sacred mask and folk dances. The young men who perform the sacred mask dance start rehearsing a couple of weeks before the festival. Food plays an important part. Cereals, flour, rice, butter, cheese, and vegetables are collected from everyone in the village.

Priests exorcise the area of negatives forces and create a sacred space on the first day. Subsequent days start with prayer. Around 9:30 a.m. the music and dances begin. Dancing will continue until late afternoon. There are different dances performed each day including The Dance of Old Man and Old Woman, Black Hat Dance and Stag and Hounds Dance.

Women wear the kira (the national dress for women in Bhutan) along with a wonju (blouse) and toego (short jacket). Male dancers wear colorful silk skirts, hand-made masks and perform barefoot. They often carry drums or cymbals. Their masks are constructed from papier mâché or carved wood. They are accompanied by musicians playing horns, clarinets, cymbals, drums, and conch shells. Included in the list of performers is the Atsara (Bhutanese clown or Master of Ceremony) who provides comedy but also ensures the dance runs smoothly. Don’t be surprised if he asks you for a small donation to be shared with all the dance crew. He is hard to miss, look for the red mask with hawkish nose and giant phallus hanging from the forehead.

The village of Ura Makrong is located 48km east of Jakar in the Bumthang province. It is one of the largest clustered villages in Bhutan with about 300 residents and 50 traditional homes. Faced with rural-urban migration, the village has made it mandatory for all men 40 and below to learn the dances to keep the tradition alive. The Bhutanese government has also increased the allowance for those participating in the festival to help ease the financial burden of missing work.

Join PhotoHound to learn how, where and when to capture amazing photos here

  • Know the best times, seasons & shooting conditions
  • Detailed directions - maps, co-ordinates and directions
  • Know how to get there - where to park or how to reach there using public transport
  • Browse inspirational photos and learn how they were taken - see the EXIF details
  • Bookmark your favourite spots for future reference
  • Know exactly when to shoot for beautiful photographs - sunrise, sunset, blue hour and astrophotography
  • Detailed, 7-day weather forecast at this location
  • Share your images with like-minded travel photographers
Essential Information

Share this photo spot

Join thousands of photographers exploring the world with PhotoHound

Sign up or Log in