Once upon a time there was an old lady who lived in the most beautiful valley, but in the lost part of the world. A Buddhist Lama (Monk), who was passing across, not seeing a single human being in his journey stopped by requesting for some drinking water. The old lady was engrossed in the blooming rhododendrons and other colourful flowers and thinking of the creator of this beautiful valley. She slowly went inside her house to fetch some drinking water and when she returned the Lama was gone, but had left a small bag. Out of curiosity she opened the bag to find a relic inside it. Till date the people of the beautiful Ura Valley, or Ura Lhakhang celebrate around this relic in a festival, Ura Yakchoe.
It is said that Bumthang is the most beautiful part of Bhutan and Ura Valley is the best part of Bumthang. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava visited Bumthang to cure the Bumthang King, popularly known as Sindhu Raja. There are lots of stories attached to this legendary journey. When the Sindhu Raja’s messengers arrived Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) at his place in Nepal, he requested them to return with a few of his disciples and that he would follow later. When the joint team arrived the foothills of the mountain trail, they found that Guru Padmasambhava was meditating on a floating sal leaf. This place today is identified as Ultapani, the western side of Indian Manas. The Bodos have the legend of the monk going through a path next to it; Gonghar Lam as they called it is hidden in the deep forests. Just above this area is the Nubji-Korphu area, where we still can hear and see the interactions of Guru Rimpoche with Kupdra Penpo from the Monpa village near Trongsa.
The Lama who asked for water from the old lady must have been Guru Rimpoche and the relic left by him is celebrated even today. This year do not miss the Ura Yokchoe festival to start from 18th of April and should end around Friday that week.
While travelling in these areas, both in Bhutan and India, I have felt that these are the most sacred areas for Biodiversity and needs protection through the local traditions, as it has happened for hundreds of year in the past. All we need is to help keep this tradition living.
Photos from my friend from Ura, who is also a Tiger expert from Bhutan, Lhendup Tharchen.