Thimphu – What exactly is the state of the ethnic community in Bhutan? Even with little anthropological research known to have been conducted in the country, Bhutan continues to receive curious and enthusiastic looks from a number of researchers. There is that particular fascination for people to want to know more about the people living in a kingdom tucked in the vast region of South Asia.
In such an interesting journey, it is perhaps a good choice to start with the Layap ethnic group of the northeast, also known as the Bjop people. They are closely associated with the Lunap people, also known as the Laps.
How Are the Layaps Doing?
Even though they share the northeastern region of Bhutan, the Layaps and the Lunaps may still not know how they may be similar, aside from referring themselves as female (layaps) and male (lunaps) communities. Nevertheless, a foreigner visiting the groups’ homes will be welcomed with friendly people who would be happy to show and share their cultures.
The Layap women are known for their beauty, which is further enhanced by their conical hats made of bamboo strips that lend an air of mystery. These hats are not to simply showcase their beauty but also to demonstrate their beliefs and to appease village spirits.
Aside from the people’s distinct attire when greeting guests, they are also known to live a semi-nomadic life. The Layap families have a particular system wherein they tend to their yak herds in the summer then later trade in the winter. With this, the male members of the community have to be away for long periods and the females stay in their village to help grow barley, mustard, and other farm goods. Though the land for this is small, they still keep themselves busy with such practice.
Beliefs and Practices
The Layap families spend their lives helping out the people in the village. However, another interesting side to their village is that the households hold their own rituals to honor deities and spirits. This is an interesting anthropological view into Bhutan’s ethnic lives. The people learn to follow and flourish in their own communal beliefs, which are later passed on to the next generations.
There is even a famous legend connected to the women’s practice of wearing pointed hats as told by many of the members of the community. In this story, the people were saved from a curse and received good luck as they traveled wearing black clothes and this pointed hat. So, until now, they believe that should they stop wearing their hats, bad luck will once again befall their village. This is one proof of how the Layap ethnic group is still able to connect their beliefs and practices of the past to their present. Further anthropological research can be made to further understand the history of this community. Moreover, it is an opportunity to further explore and share the beauty of this South Asian group’s culture, traditions, and beliefs.
Image from Istvan Hernadi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/xtremepeaks/16151190570/in/photostream/