Wamling is a small village in Upper Kheng, about one and half day’s walk from the nearest road point. The village consists of about 70 households. The village, like any other villages in Shingkhar Gewog, prides having to celebrate local festivals and tshechus - kharpu and choedpa being the most popular. The two festivals occur consecutively on the ninth and tenth month of the Bhutanese calendar. Wamling choedpa is a five-day annual event, usually conducted after the successful harvest of rice and other major crops.
It usually starts on the fifteenth day of the tenth month on the Bhutanese calendar. This year the annual choedpa falls on December 3. For farmers it is a time for a compulsory break from household and farm works. It is time for people to watch mask dances and dress in their best. It is also a happy occasion where people eat and drink their fill.
Wamlingpas are by nature very hard working people. And the village never had history of people spending their nights in the gutters, drunk. People may consume a little alcohol while working to boost their energy, but Choedpa is a time where people drink more ara, and be happy, off from work. It is like civil servants in urban areas treating themselves with alcohols and expensive wines on weekends. But come this year’s choedpa, farmers are preparing to drink a lot of tea. This comes after the local authority issued a letter which prohibits the use of alcohol. Yet another ban. Looks, like lamas and monks who perform the rituals and men who perform the mask dances will have no option but to drink tea.
This is the only occasion where people enjoy and I don't know whether restricting alcohol on such an important even help farmers. I don’t know how would the old people in the village react with this mindless and foolish ban. What is the rationality? And back in the capital our parliamentarians are debating whether to lift ineffective tobacco ban.
I heard villagers saying that the Zhemgang Dzongkhag Rabdey Lam Neten thought that the village choedpa was too long. He instructed people to reduce the number of days to three for he reasoned even Thimphu Tshechu is for only three days. But luckily people ignored his dictatorial order.
But in the recent years, I heard choedpa is dominated by open stalls where people sell garments and engage in gambling. Should there be a restriction from the local authority on this very ancient festival, it should definitely be such activities.