On November 6, Community-Based Sustainable Tourism Project (CBST) team from Royal Society of Protection of Nature (RSPN) were in Haa to celebrate and observe the “Ap Chhundu Soekha,” which is considered as the holiest day in the Haap calendar. The team partook in the celebration to assess the viability of including the event as one of the unique tourism products that can be part of the package offered to promote Haa as a tourist destination.
For the festival, three gewogs are assigned different responsibilities. For this year’s event Katsho gewog was entrusted the responsibility of bringing the horses’, Bji gewog were to oversee Pazap performance, while Eusu gewog was responsible for Chadri. A warrior (pazap) dance is performed at Jangkakha by the people of Yangthang. The reason why only the Yanthang men are allowed to perform the dance is that they are said to be the pure, unmixed descendants of Ap Chhundu’s soldiers.
As centerpiece of the celebration, a white prayer flag replacing the old flag is hoisted on the tip of the majestic, double-stemmed pine tree that dominates the site – known as Lhashing or Ap Chhundu’s goenkhang. The person who performs this act is believed to be protected by Ap Chhundu and is rewarded with a cash prize.
Perhaps the most significant outcome this year’s Ap Chhundu was the collective decision of dzongkhag and gewog officials, along with families organizing the festival to discontinue the sacrifice of animals during the ritual. The decision was made after a favorable outcome from rolling dice at Lhakhang Karpo, a symbolic gesture of seeking permission from the deity. The celebration ended at around 3:30pm, after which the officials and local people queued up for lunch.
By Khachi Wangmo