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BHUTAN

HA

HA was 11,648, making it the second least populated dzongkhag in Bhutan after Gasa. The dominant language of the district is Dzongkha, the national language. Haa's major feature is the Haa Valley, a steep north-south valley with a narrow floor. The name Haa (pronounced "hah"), as well as the more ancient name Has connotes esoteric hiddenness. An alternative name for the district is "Hidden-Land Rice Valley."
Local historians maintain that two important temples in Haa district, the Black Temple and the White Temple were built at the same time as Kyerchu Temple in Paro in the 7th century AD. The two temples can be found near each other at the sacred site known as Miri Punsum, or "The Three Brother Hills." A third temple, Haa Gonpa, was built at further up the valley at the site where a lame pigeon, actually a bodhisattva in disguised form, was found by a local farmer who was drawn to the spot by a mysterious fire seen on several successive nights and by the unexplained sounds of oboes and trumpets (musical instruments closely associated with Bhutanese and Tibetan monasteries).
Near the Black Temple there are two houses near a sacred oak tree where the local deity once appeared as a winged creature, scaring the local people (the valley is divided into a number of areas, each under the influence of a particular local deity predating the arrival of Buddhism — see Bön religion). The residents of the two houses gave offerings to the local deity. The local deity, now appeased, visited the upper house while neglecting the lower. The jealous owner of the lower house began an inter-house feud in which a man of the upper house was killed. Every year 11th lunar month a series of special mystical practices are performed in the upper house for a week.

Phobjikha

The Phobjikha Valley is a vast U-shaped glacial valley, also known as Gangteng Valley named after the impressive Gangteng Monastery of the Nyingma sect in central Bhutan, where the graceful black-necked cranes in Bhutan (Grus nigricollis) from the Tibetan Plateau visit the valley during the winter season to roost. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangteng Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning to Tibet.
The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness. The valley is rich in faunal biodiversity and has, apart from the globally threatened black-necked cranes Grus nigricollis, 13 other globally threatened species. Within the ambit of the valley, an area of about 163 square kilometres (63 sq mi) has been declared a protected area, which is managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN), for the protection of nature, authorized to manage, on lease basis, by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Tsechu, the colourful Mask Dance Festival of Bhutan and the Crane Festival welcoming the black-neck cranes in winter months are held every year in the precincts of the Phobjikha Valley, in the Gangten Monastery courtyard. It also has a popular 3-days trek route.
The valley is enclosed by the mountain ranges, which experience snowfall. The valley also gets covered with snow during the winter months forcing people of the valley to shift to more pleasant climes during the months of January and February.
In the Phobjikha valley in particular, the black-necked cranes have a celebrity status, as witnessed by the Crane Festival held every year on 12 November, soon after their arrival from the Tibetan Plateau in the late October. The festival is celebrated in the courtyards of the Gangten Gonpa and in the entire Phobjikha Valley. The festival is attended by a large number of local people. On this occasion, children wearing crane costumes perform choreographed crane dances. During this period, cranes are seen flying at high altitudes over the mountains. Many tourists also visit the valley to witness this festival.
Another special festival observed by the people of the valley is the annual Tsechu, which is held in the Gangteng Monastery from the 5th to 10th days of the eighth lunar month, as per the Bhutanese calendar. Mask dances are the special feature of the festival. The festival attracts many foreign tourists.