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Another ban

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.


  1. Hi Ngawang,

    I think a lot of Bhutanese people pick up drinking from such occasions. They drink one time, they drink twice and alcohol is one of the main reasons for the disruption of peace in many homes. On the other hand, I know people would argue that festival or no festival, those who drink would drink anyhow, somehow but you see, a lot of people do not have that mental stamina to ward off such temptations. WHat's worse, they don't even try. :)

    Personally, I would prefer if alcohol were banned instead of tobacco. Atleast, tobacco does not make a person go psycho, or inflict mental pain on others. :)

  2. Hey Kinga,

    I think you have good experience of a village life. I am impressed. Yes, I understand your argument. But you see, I am not against smoking or drinking. It is in people's right to either smoke or drink. And who are we to worry about others? I don't drink, one should know that.

    But you see, some people in remote villages think they are the kings to impose such restrictions. It is like saying you cannot eat pork or beef on a Losar or something like that. Truly amazing.

    And it is really nice to see educated people in towns who support ban of alcohol over tobacco. But I am a village boy and this ancient traditional festival has special sentiment attached to it.

    And I say NO to such bans and YES to preservation of our age old culture and traditions.

  3. You know, I wouldn't argue with you because we all got opinions. But do you think preservation of age old tradition should persevere at the cost of happiness of those who are victimized? Everything's subject to change, even tradition. And refusal of change is living in denial.

    Offering domas and changjeys were banned to eradicate corruption. Women are not wearing full kiras anymore and tego's are styled in blazer forms. Chokus are getting more vegetarian than ever. Houses are built with more modern features than Bhutanese. If we look around us, everything's constantly changing. Not that I don't love tradition. In fact, I love everything Bhutanese but I do not really mind any change that is for the betterment of people's lives and their comfort. And coming back to alcohol, people have right to choices but it is a leader's duty to enforce whatever is good for the community.

    Anyway, I do not mean to infuriate you with my opinion but I atleast hope, you would try to see this point from a victim's perspective. Don't get me wrong. By victim, I mean, atleast 40% of womenfolk in the villages and perhaps 50% of the children :)

    BTW, great article. I hear Wamling's a great place :P


  4. Let’s get this straight Kinga. It is not an exaggeration to say Wamling has no problem with alcoholism. And there is no question of victor or victim here. I grew up there and didn’t see a man bashing his wife in a drunken state- it is more of urban phenomena as I see it. But I cannot rule out everything. I can at least speak for the people of Wamling.

    Your argument about the process of change and transformation make sense to me. Yes, change for the good is always welcome as you say. But I don’t know whether I agree with the all the changes that are taking place in our national dresses, architectural features are for the betterment of our society. But, again that’s debatable, but let’s not though.

    Hey thanks by the way. I am in no way infuriated. It was nice you chose to comment on my piece. By the way, Wamling maybe still far from road, but it is a nice place once you get there. I wish you get to visit the place once and see what I mean it here.

    Good day! Regards!



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