The Unique, Beautiful Women of Laya, Bhutan

by Debby Jagerman-Dungan
( January 14th, 2012 )

Bhutan Laya Women

They wear their long black hair topped with conical-shaped hats. Their clothes are made out of yak wool. They wear jewelry made of items such as silver and turquoise on their backs.

They are the unique, beautiful women of Laya, Bhutan.

Bhutan Laya Women

In the remote Himalayan village of Laya at over 12,500 feet in northwestern Bhutan, the women have worn their unique style of dress for centuries. Along with the Layap’s distinctive language and customs, this style of dress reflects culture, tradition, religion, and history.

It is believed that a very important figure in Bhutanese history and religion, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, first entered Bhutan in Laya. Shabdrung was a Tibetan Buddhist lama who unified Bhutan, and is the great leader of the Drukpa school of Mahayana Buddhism, which is followed in Bhutan. One of my Bhutanese guides told me that the style of dress that the women of Laya wear shows that “they follow Shabdrung.”

Bhutan Laya Women

The conical-shaped hats are made of darkened bamboo strips that are woven together. I asked another one of my Bhutanese guides the significance of these conical-shaped hats, and he replied that, “If they fail to wear the hats they believe they will upset the village spirits.”

Bhutan Laya Women Conical Hat

The hats are adorned with a pointed spike at the top, and colorful beadwork in the back consisting of about 30 or more strands of white, red, orange, and blue beads. I asked if there was significance to the pointed spike at the top, and one of my Bhutanese guides replied, “Regarding the pointed stick at the top, there is no such reason as per my knowledge. It simply shows that it is a unique hat to Laya.”

Bhutan Laya WomenThis Laya woman is selling the conical-shaped hats.

The yak wool clothes include a jacket (called khenja) that is black with silver trim, and a long black ankle-lenght skirt (called the zoom) which contains earth-toned vertical stripes of brown, orange, rust, and mustard. One of my guides told me that the clothes are made of yak wool to “help with the extreme weather and the long trade missions” of the Layap.

Bhutan Laya Women

These Layap women were working hard, breaking up the ground in order to clear an area of a field so that animals won’t cross into the crops. All the while they were wearing their traditional clothing. (Although the hats were kept safely off to the side.)

During my visit to the scenic village of Laya, it was quite amazing to see all the beautiful women wearing their unique clothing. Unlike fashion of today that goes in and out of style every few years, the women of Laya respect their culture, tradition, religion, and history over the centuries.

Sweet Travels!

Some of the information in this blog was provided to me by two of my Bhutanese guides, Tobgay. And Pema Wangchuk. Thanks to you both!

From our partners
On January 14th, 2012 at 12:59 pm, Beth Shepherd - Pampers and Pakhlava said:

I love seeing what people wear. The hat and beading, and even the garments remind me of the clothing we saw when traveling in Tibet. Great shots.

On January 15th, 2012 at 9:01 am, Debby Jagerman said:

Thanks, Beth. The Layap are ethnically related to Tibetans, and now I would love to go to Tibet, too, to see the people there, and their clothing.

On January 16th, 2012 at 5:38 pm, Nancy sorrell said:

Love it! They are so beautiful!

On January 16th, 2012 at 8:13 pm, Debby Jagerman said:

Thanks, sis!!

On January 28th, 2012 at 1:23 pm, Mary Zabell said:

Very interesting text and pics. Have always wanted to go to some of those remote Himalayan areas…such much to see and so little time!

On January 30th, 2012 at 8:00 pm, scott said:

The digging they are doing in the field is hard work. That ground has got to be hard from the animals hooves. It is actually surprising but also not, that the animals do not want to cross the soft ground.

On August 10th, 2015 at 6:16 am, Dorji Khandu said:

Dear Debby,
I am very pleased to go through your blog to read about my village people. Thank you for visiting our place and we wish you will visit again. Now we are on Facebook, please do visit and keep in touch. Just search Laya on Facebook.
Thank you.

On August 10th, 2015 at 9:23 pm, Debby Jagerman-Dungan said:

Thank you, Dorji.

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