We begin our day by visiting separate farmhouses for breakfast and cultural exchange and to help the children dress for the festival—this can be really fun if you are proactive. They are not shy and will have fun with you showing you the intricacies of dressing in a gho and kira. (Talk about cultural emersion!) The festival begins around 10 a.m. so we can each walk there with our adopted families. This is one of the smallest festivals in Bhutan and as such not many tourists go there—in 2016 I counted just 10 foreigners among 500 villagers and festival dancers. We are good friends with the lama there and will have lunch with him in his private grandstand overlooking the small courtyard where the festival takes place. Another major attraction to the first day of the festival is the most venerable dance in Bhutanese Buddhist history, The Black Hat Dance.
We get very special treatment from the festival committee because we sponsored the rebuilding of the kitchen house that burned to the ground just one day before the 2009 festival. Also, Robin wrote a story about the Domkhar Festival that was published in the 2009 Spring issue of Tashi Delek—see the Rainbow web site to read that story in preparation to attending the festival. Every year our tour sponsors different upgrades to their carved wood masks, elaborate costumes and we have even donated 30 chairs for the “V.I.P. skybox,” the place where the lama watches the festival from. Unlike the larger festivals in Paro and Thimphu where thousands of villagers and tourists sit in grandstands in huge courtyards, making good photography near impossible, the quaint and intimate festival in Domkhar allows us total access and closeness to the dancers. You can sit or stand on the edge of the cobblestones and work with your tripod and equipment to get great close-ups and wide panoramas.
We are allowed access into the dressing room and are invited into the temple to take photos of the lama and his entourage of musicians and chanters during ceremonies.