Ura valley is one of the highest valleys in Bumthang located in central Bhutan. The place was mainly known for nomads in the past years. Now the valley has produced highly qualified persons in the government body, which in fact are the assets of the kingdom. The valley has annual festival called Ura Yakchoed, a cultural festival mainly to appease God of Yaks. Driving for about an hour and half from Bumthang through the lush forest of pine and oak, and hamlets over Urala Pass (3200m) is very scenic with the view of Mt. Gangkar Phunsum (7545m).
The five day festival is mainly in honor to Chador, a manifestation of Vajrapani or God of Power. The statue of Chador is brought from Gaden, a village with procession to Ura Lhakhang blessing the community. People believe that the statue was a gift from Guru Rinpoche and worship with lot of faith and devotion.
The start of the festival is very dramatic, with the clowns also known as Astsara marching towards the ground holding the banners and flags, jerking. Funny thing about them is their masks they wear, old dress stitched with patches and holding symbolic phallus. Their entry to the ground is really remarkable.
While the Atsaras are still on the ground jerking around, the real mask dancers come out of the temple wearing big wrathful masks. They indeed look scary but as per the legend, those are the forms of Guru Rinpoche of the 8th century to subjugate the evils. Then the real festival with mask dances starts followed by folk dances. At the end of the day, Dr. Karma Puntsho calls up the tourist and narrates the historical background of the valley and the festival.
The history dates back to the 8th century with very precious gift from a lama. The story tells about existence of Bhutanese hospitality since very long time back. A lama came to a village called Gaden in Ura who was not from that place. The lama met an old lady whom he asked for water. She went to fetch water and came back, the lama was nowhere. Instead she found a small sack with a statue of Chador, a manifestation of Vajrapani, God of Power at the threshold. The statue was a gift and blessing to the family and whole village. That relic has been kept at the very house and passed on to generations.