Bongo Gewog Population and other Information from PHCB 2005

The second Population and Housing Census  (PHCB) will take place from 30 May to 1st June 2017. It is one important data collection by the government to make plans and programmes for our villages and for the whole country. This is the second PHCB and it will be very important and interesting as we can get data which we can compare with that of the 1st PHCB. Let us look at some data of Bongo Gewog from the first PHCB that was conducted in 2005.

The Population of Bongo Gewog was 6,870 people according to the PHCB 2005. This excludes Bongops and other people living in Gedu town. Bongo Gewog population is the 4th highest among the 11 Gewogs in Chukha. Chukha Dzongkhag as a whole had  74,287 people.

Chart 1: Population of Chukha Dzongkhag and the top four populous Gewogs in the Chukha.

From  the 2005 PHCB, we also find some other interesting statistics. They have shown the drinking water source for the households of Bongo (Chart 2). It shows that 721 households in Bongo depend on piped water outside their house.

Chart 2: Drinking water source of Bongo Gewog households

Interestingly there is one household who depend on rain water as the drinking water source.

Chart 3: Bongo Gewog Main Source of Lighting of the Houesholds

Next is the main source of lighting for the Bongop households. It is interesting to see that in 2005, there were 513 households who used Kerosene oil to light their homes. Further, we can see that there was only 1 household which used Solar to light their house. Have a look at the number of households using Candle, 19 times more than those who used Solar. Interesting when we recollect how much effort government wastes to promote Solar lighting in rural homes.

Chart 4: Bongop Households distance from motor road.

Finally we see the distance of Bongop households from the motor road. It is good to see that 798 of Bongop households live less than 30 minutes walk to the motor road. But we also see 117 households who have to walk more than 6 hours to reach a motor road.

Those were the statistics from the first PHCB conducted in 2005. From the second PHCB which will start in four days, we will have more data and most importantly we will have data which we can compare. Let us see how our Bongops and Bongo Gewog as a whole have improved ( or become worse) in the last 11 years.

As a responsible Bongop, let us tell our parents back in the village to give good information to the enumerators who will visit every home in three days to collection information. We will need good data of our Bongo Gewog and also Bongop villages to make informed decisions and also make appropriate plans and programmes.


Baazis in Bongo Part II

Last year we have shared a short article titled Baazis are few in Bongo . Today we would like to share a similar photo of our Baazis, or a cow-herder as Englishmen calls it. The two photos were taken roughly four years apart. Looking at the two photos reflect few societal changes that have come even within the short span of time in the lives of our Baazis and Bongops as a whole.

Bongop Cow-shed on 01 April 2013

Bongop Cowshed on 27 May 2017

The first thing we see here is that the Pig is missing in the second photo. Most of Bongops will remember why it is so. Rearing pigs in our villages and also in the forests with the Baazis were banned in 2014 for religious reasons. So we can now suppose that Bongops will never see a pig in our village.  We will have difficulty explaining to our children how a village Pig looks like!

Next in disappearing line after the Pigs will be our Cattle and ultimately our Baazis. The number of Baazis are reducing in number every year. Honestly, we are out of solution here. We are bit short of ideas here on how to encourage our farmers to keep this Baazi tradition alive. Is it the evolution of a Bongop society that is taking place. Gradual replacement of stones by brick, mud by concrete, cow milk by Amul Taaza, just as poor Thimphu people are now living.

While it is concerning, we encourage every Bongop to think about the how it will be 10  or 20 years down the line. Our Baazis are already giving up any need to be in the forests and mountains when all their counterpart Bongops in the villages are busy growing cardamom – a crop which is slowing driving all Bongops into an unknown and unseen world.

We strive to document our Baazi culture before it is gone forever, just for the sake of explaining to our children how our fathers lived. How our  fathers lived in harmony with nature, with other animals and proudly independent and self-reliant as a Baazi.

Brushing aside negatives and fears , enjoy some more Baazi photos while you are here!


Gongthas of Bongo, a space in the Kitchen and its losing value

One unique space we have in our Bongop homes is the Gongtha. It consists of a space in the Kitchen where one person can sit cross-legged or stand on their knees. In English they call it hearth or the general term used is Kitchen. Today we are going to show you some Gongthas from Bongo. The purpose is to show the beauty of Gongthas and show so many things you see in this little space at our Bongop homes. Most importantly, we would like to bring attention to the challenges we are facing with Gongthas slowing losing it’s essence and how it may one day disappear from many of our Bongop homes.

Gongthas are usually occupied by Nangi Aum (Woman incharge of house affairs). Even if you were born and brought up in Bongo as a child, I doubt whether you have had the opportunity to take up the role associated with someone occupying the Gongtha at our homes. One can feel the harmony and warmth of a family when you sit around the Gongtha. Mom cooking for you, Dad sitting to talk about day’s work and making future plans and children just enjoying the warmth of the fire. During meals, food is usually served by the Mother or Nangi Aum from the Gongtha. A Cat is frequently seen in every Gongtha.  Now these are  slowly changing.

This days many Bongops  now want their Kitchen space to be separate from their main homes. This is because of the smoke and soot generated with Kitchen being inside their homes. So few Gongthas in Bongo are now seen outside of the main home, moved along as the Kitchen was built outside.

Next it is the drugged innovation called TV which has made it’s presence felt even in our rural homes. Gongtha and TVs do not get along. Goongtha has soot and smoke. TV, as being invented in the neat and clean West, needs to be kept in a cleaner space. So TV is located in the Sitting Room of Bongop homes. Bongop term for sitting room is ‘Yoo’. So people followed TV to the sitting room and we see our Mom or Daughter-In-Laws cooking all alone in the Gongthas now.

Further, there are new houses in Bongo where the builders have never felt the need for a Gongtha. Kitchen spaces are completely outside of their main homes by design. The folk belief that your house timber is made long lasting and stronger by the soot collected on them does not hold value anymore to our modern Engineers.

And lastly, it is the new kind of cooking equipment which are now replacing our traditional cooking methods. It is the installation of LPG cylinders and Gas stoves. These innovation too needs a cleaner space as well as a raised space for someone to stay upright standing to cook. So this innovation has made some of our Bongops to cook food standing, move in the house freely in their upright positions.

In the process of the changes in our villages, we see one main space of our home lose it’s significance. People’s need to stay away from smoke and soot, infiltration of TV requiring a cleaner and separate room and new houses and new cooking methods are leading our Gongthas lose its value and may ultimately lead to its disappearance from our Bongop homes.


Spouse from the Same Village equates golden cliff: Importance of getting married from the same villages

Seek advice on marriage from an elderly Bongop, probably one will receive the same advice summed up in a simple, but profound saying: “yuegi mi dha serge bjag” (spouse from your village equates golden cliff). Meaning, marriage between two from the same village would make the best committed relation like a firm cliff. Golden Cliff! Isn’t it a beautiful, indeed a strong, metaphor in which our forefathers have viewed the firmness and significance the relation of marriage should bear alike with. Question is, does fate always hold two hailing from the same village together? Yet efforts are made – thus there comes success and failure sagas of love and affairs that built or break the fiber between families in a community.

Everybody passes in life a phase when air of romance pervades the space, blurs the sight, and obsesses the brain. This is the most experiencing time: the rapture of love, curse of infatuation and grief of heartbreaks, which bring but the maturity of sense in men and women. I and many were part of the romantic anxiety that filled the village at some point of time with hope of seeing two ‘Yuegi Mi’ signing the bond of love matching the firmness of ‘gSergi Byag’. However, reality does not always yield to hope.

That was during the time when we, a gang of young men were approaching, by accord of the elders in the village, a marriageable age. We, especially Lobzang Nima (Asha Shacha’s son) and I, use to take pleasure in listening to Asha Tenzin on merits of marrying a woman from the same village. It was from him I heard the abovementioned proverb first.

Before talking on the subject any further, let me share briefly the backdrop on which we got to listen to the core beliefs of our ancestor on marriage.

It was in 2003, when Indian Militants (ULFA, BODO and KLO) brought unrest in Bhutan, that back in the village, a man from each household had to come out at night and guard the village. That went for around a month. We were grouped up into four or five men. A group was sent to Bjimlumpa (known for Wangchu as it flows down below Toozhi) to guard the cabled-bamboo bridge that connected Bongo to Shinchekha road. Men carried their beddings and utensils, found caves on the bank of the river and spent days and nights keeping vigil for any stranger passing by.

Other groups in the village took our stands guarding the important/strategic areas: school, temple, and BHU. The militants would have come, if ever they did, in seek for hideout and these were the possible places they could have found. They were militants, possibly with AK47, and we were there guarding our village with bamboo baton, patang, and bare hand. Bongop do have, ignorantly, the lion heart. We even carried some ropes regularly, plotting to tying their hands and handing them over to police. Behind all this innocence and ignorance, we bravely guarded our village. The spirit of the villagers was to join the nation in doing our own small part in protecting the nation’s sovereignty. So we did! We spent sleepless night for a month, but those sleepless nights were, perhaps, the most beautiful time I ever had in my village with the elders.

Fire was made, tea boiled, and bottles emptied. Asha Tenzin would bring lore from the time of yore spontaneously cutting through the night in place of snore like in “Arabian Night”. Redden eyes would find no sleep and tired head no node. Periodic cacophony of dogs’ bark would be attended faithfully in suspicion that the militants have walked in. Fortunately, they never made up to Bongo.

It was during one of those nights we talked exclusively on marriage. Elders related how they got together with their children’s mother. Lobzang and I sought the wisdom of Asha and other elders present there on what could make our marriage promising. And the advice was that we should find someone from our village – that is when “gYue Gi Mi Dhang gSer Gi Byag” came in. We were told of the advantages in holding the community together by binding two families together with their son and daughter in nuptial tie. It was also with the view that visiting home during the holidays would be more comfortable and economically cheaper as most of us would be working outside our village. We were also told that families can help each other at the time of needs even when we would fail to attend. Most importantly, they believed that we would remain tied to our village. It was but then the view so traditional, which really made no strong sense to us. How far would this advice hold water? As our country has become smaller in terms of connectivity today, boundaries of “gYus’ have faded or become thinner, and many a time, we find gSer Gi Mi beyond the shell of our own villages. Moreover, whether or not the marriage stands firm as Golden Cliff depends much on people involved in it rather than from where they hail. But there was this essence of harmony, oneness and closeness in this view. It was like building deeper relation on what has been there.

Withstanding this, many of us who grew up together tried binding ourselves to our natives. But almost all of us failed to settle down. One of my uncles made two failed attempt to fasten relation into the firmness of the golden cliff, and eventually gave away himself towards east. My brother made two attempts in futile and let his fate fall in Central Bhutan. My cousin, Lobzang (at least I can mention his name, for he has no sanctity of marriage to protect) made his move at least more than twice, but still he is left ‘eligible-bachelor-turning-oldest-bachelor’. On my own account, I tried with two bearing same name, but eventually settled in east. It was only Aou Sangay Thinley and Wangchuk Lham who went onto binding two families together among us, as far as I know.

Marriage does bring society together or break it apart. There are cases in our village where families have grown close and share the pain and joy as one. There are also cases where coldness has developed following the fall in marriage of their sons and daughters. But one good thing in Bongops is we are forgiving people and we hurdle over the difference much easily and find peace in similarities. If our people were unforgiving, we would have fragmented Bongo, for there are cases of divorce so often than desired.

Many young couples resort to easy divorce not minding their life ahead. They think little about their children when it comes to their going apart. While divorce is not unique phenomenon to Bongops, it seems the frequency is very high going by the population of young men and women in the village. It seems like true essence of marriage is not conceived by these young people in the village. Educating them on the sacredness of this institute called  ‘marriage’ might be the best and only way to curtail the numbers of divorces in our village and help making gYus Gi Mi the real gSer Gi Byag!


Bongop Tshogpa is Apolitical

Posts by Bongop Tshogpa on our website has been pending for a long time. This was an intentional break we took to decide on our positions as a group and to decide about our own existence for the future.  As the Tshogpa activities grew in volume, we were concerned that few corners have taken our initiatives as heading into the direction of seeking political favors.

Today, we would like to clarify that Bongop Tshogpa activities are not performed to gain any political benefit for the present or for the future to those doing the activities. Bongop Tshogpa as an informal group for the benefits of Bongop Community shall work to maintain its apolitical status. All Bongop Tshogpa Administrators shall ensure that whatever we do for Bongop Tshogpa will not be for our benefit, especially to gain political favours. To ensure that it is observed strictly, we would like to declare today that if any of our Tshogpa Admins have a political ambition, we will have him/her resign from the Tshogpa Admin responsibilities

In addition we will also ensure that no views or activities that may favour a person in their political ambitions will be entertained or published on our Tshogpa website. We are striving our best to be as clean as possible in terms of our thoughts and actions in promoting community development and harmony.

Further we would like to clarify today that the views expressed by the Tshogpa Admins through their personal Social Media accounts shall not reflect the views of Bongop Tshogpa and no one should take the personal account posts of the Admins as the view of Bongop Tshogpa.

This clarification should also make way for Bongop Tshogpa to perform any of our activities in the future without any hesitation and concerns of us being labelled a group working to seek political favours. For those who do harness any such doubts to us, let this small clarification serve as a basis of reference on the clarity of our mind and actions to benefit our Bongops genuinely from our activities without seeking anything in return personally but to promote harmony as a Bongop community.

Tshogpa Administrators

Reflecting times without electricity in Bongo – Jigme Dorji

In this short article I reflect on the times when there was no electricity and television in Bongo village.  Those were the days in Bongo when we have never dreamt that electricity will reach our village. 6 o’clock evening, and everyone, except the young boys and girls, would retreat into their homes which are lit with kerosene ‘lamps’. Hope you can get a picture of how a a traditional Bhutanese ‘lamp’ looks like. A glass bottle with a piece of cloth inserted to suck up kerosene. If kerosene volume is low, we mix kerosne and water to fill the bottle so that suction pull by the piece of cloth is stronger, the result being a better light.  Kersone floating on water – the first lesson in physics I might have learnt at home as a rural boy. Some houses even use diesel to light up.

People would eat their dinner as early as 4:00 pm but never past 6.  The village would remain in complete darkness but only for the full moon and clear sky nights when it is lit and some can afford to walk without assitance of any external light source. However, the homes would be warm, and dimly lit by the burning firewood in the oven. Families used to sit on the hearth, around the fire chit-chatting, perspiring out the tiredness from day’s work into rapture of love and bond. Neighbours took time out to visit each other’s home, sip a poto (container) of ‘tongpa’ (locally brewed alcohol), chew beetle nut and talk out plans for the next day before everyone puts off their worries and fatigues to peaceful sleep.

Today, as you visit Bongo, those beautiful moments are but stories. Instead of people sitting around the hearth, we see our people eagerly waiting for the BBS news channel to start its broadcast. Longingness for those moments when grandfathers used to share their adventure to Rangamati ferrying oranges and shopping with 3 Anas still lingers in my mind. Their recollection of the days of participating in constructing first national highway, About doing woola for reconstruction of Tashichodzong, and their narration on the Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji’s tragic death fed me with piecemeal history of Bhutan. These factual accounts, although incomplete and often with distortion, and many folklores they told, have introduced me to the nation’s belief, culture and history. With the passing away of many of our elders, these narrations have faded away too.

In addition, television has invaded the private dome of many houses, swallowing up people’s emotional warmth of togetherness. Television has taken a centre position in many homes and those who do not posses it have to walk every evening to a neighbour’s house to watch. Everyone finds solace and refuge from day’s hardship in television and not in conversation with their near ones. Hardly do we see any hour as such to be called family time. To add on this, many houses have only the old parents shuffling their frail legs around the hearth their children played and made them laugh over the filial innocence. They silently scour or search the hearth for the same laughter and life, but in vain for many of their children haven’t made back home for long since they left the oven that warmed their soft childhood hands. The houses have grown colder, so has the village.

Change though is inevitable. Social and emotional tie in and among the families for communal unity should sustain only if younger ones find time to visit villages and atleast reflect on how our village must have been just a few years ago when there was no electricity and when this modern invention called ‘television’ wasn’t there at our villages. Can we even think about  how our homes were lit when there was no electricty? How did electricty reach our village? How are people’s lives chaning? So many questions to linger on and finding answers might make us prepare better for the unknown future, although we are slowly losing a beautiful past.

Jigme Dorji


Taktse College

March 2017





Bongopi Kha – Updated

The response to the short post about Bongopi Kha – language of Bongops was overwhelming.  Here is the updated version to the list of words.  Thank you everyone who have contributed through comments. In this compilation, we have not been able to include all the words you mentioned in the comments.   We have relied heavily on the DDC online dictionary to include as far as possible only the unique words we Bongops use or have been using.  We hope one day it will be useful to all of us.

Let’s begin our Bongopi Kha update with Gopchey, Aagobey and Haagobey.


Gopchey means ‘ugly’ for those living but it can also be called to vegetables. A rotten tomato may be called ‘tomato gopchey’.


It means ‘seriously (ill)’.  ‘Aagobey nachey nu’ means ‘seriously ill’.


It means ‘lying face down’ with hand and legs usually folded. ‘Haago Bjigo Chap Bjho’ which means to ‘run away (usually uphill) with use of hands and legs’ altogether used for stepping. we are sure even Mother English does not have a word for someone who walks in that way!

Closer to Haagobey is Gabu Zhipthey Chap

Gabu Zhipthey Chap

‘Gabu zhipthey’ is like ‘haagobey’ but we would usually use it when you have fallen on a flat surface or ground without much time to get a hand or leg support. Can this be the equivalent term for ‘face plant’? We did not find in the DDC dictionary this word anyway. Another word to go along falling was the one we explained in our last post ‘kaam tholim chap’.

Next is ‘yokolay’.


It means ‘bent’. A man who walks leaning on one side may also be called ‘yokolay’. A bent stick or anything that is bent can be called ‘yokolay’ as well.


This is popular and mostly used. It means ‘I dont want to do it’. The counter argument to someone who says ‘khami’ would be ‘khamin ngam za’ which translates as ‘if you dont want bitter, have sweet’. Because this word ‘khami’ sounds like ‘no bitter’ literally, althought meaning is diferent.

Few sets of words contributed by Yeshi Nidup, who is one of the early graduates of Bongo school and from Sherubtse college. He even gave a choekey sources from which Bongop words and phrases were derived from. Let’s begin with ‘namcho yoem’.


‘yoem’ means a deaf person. In Zhugkey it is ‘zhadu’ but Bongops use ‘yoem’.


This surely should go into the DDC dictionary. A wilting plant (due to lack of water or due to strong sunlight) is called ‘mechureyrey’. This word is very beautiful.

Then comes a huge chunk of contributions from Dasho Tshering Nidup. Dasho’s contributions starts with ‘bjakili sikili’ and so it goes.

Bjakili Sikili

‘bjakili sikili’ means  ‘bird dropping’. I dont know any other language would have a phrase for a bird dropping.






‘komchay’ is used when we used to collect neetles which are cooked as pig’s food.


‘Shaytoriri’ this word also must be used widely in Bongo area and may be in Sha as well.


burnt piece of wood


soft rotten wood or physically weak person


  A bamboo piece for blowing fire or peg for tying cattle

Sochu Tektey

wide smile from a person

Gidu Zhem

lazy person


small pieces


‘kangtolom’ is usually someone who is tall and thin (stilt). One man from Baikuenza is still called Sonam kangtala, the nick name he acquired while he was a student of Bonog school.


This is another word. ‘ello’ it means the swing that children paly usually. But as a child in a rural area, our parents never made a ‘ello’ for us. Instead there are climbers (trees which grows by climbing on other trees). We make us of climbers as our swings, often taking risky sports to result in fatal falls when climbers break as we swing. Very popular as a cow herder to play ‘ello’ in the jungles.


‘gongthana’ is the place where we have seen our mothers sit all the time. It is the prime position where the cook usually will be sitting with groceeries kept very near to the nangi aum.

Lhepche Kopche

Being ‘lhepche kopche’ means something that is reduced in volume or size. Proper English word is ‘sagging’ as Dasho T Nidup has mentioned in FB post comments.


This is a very good word for someone who disappears suddenly. Like we would say to someone who runs away suddenly from a meeting or a gathering – ‘daabjhik tang nuu’ which means ‘suddenly gone’


Tsachula, this is a big one. It means stubborn. It means someone’s nerve does not bend easily and who also do not listen to what others say.

Sheyko Chapni

It is to ‘roam’, usually without any purpose.  Too much ‘sheyko’ and you will be called ‘tokay’.


The word ‘tokay’ is very popular in Baikuenza. Ever young man who is loitering without any employment is called a ‘tokay’. But, it is also the name of a person. The name of the Lodge Manager of Bongo Hotel in Phuentsholing is Tokay from Baikuenza. We are not sure how he acquired this name but Tokay suits him.


The proper Dzongkha word is ‘nakay’ which means ‘fern’ grown in the jungle. But Bongops will call it ‘kecha’. Yeshii Nidup justifies  that ‘kecha’ is more appropriate than ‘nakay’. Bongop word wins over the zhungkha in terms of appropriateness once again.

Leypey Chusu and Taguram

This is a nostalgic one. When our parents ferried oranges to Rangmati and returns after more than two weeks to home, the only gift we expect them to bring is the ‘leypey chusu’ and the ‘taguram’. Yes as Yeshi Nidup mentioned, ‘leypey chusu’ is a beautiful chocolate. ‘taguram’, being shaped like a horse,  you can still find in some shops.

So many contributors through facebook comments. We hope some more words will come as we remember them. Our long term target is to bring imagery from the words so that anyone outside of Bongo also understand the basis of words we use. As of now, some words are really difficult to comprehend through the English descriptions. Thank you everyone again.

Compiled by: Sangay Thinley

Bongopi Kha – Language of Bongops

There is something beautiful, witty, funny and unique in the way Bongops speak Dzongkha. Every village under Bongo Gewog have their own variation in Dzongkha accents. But today, instead of accents, I will write about the unique Dzongkha words and phrases which I assume belong only to ‘us’. There may be similar ones in other places in Bhutan, but what I share here about native Bongop Dzongkha is a result of short recollection of phrases by me and my Bongop friends to the best of our knowledge indeed.

Let me begin with the phrase I heard from my Father when I spent my pre-school as an Assistant Cow-Herder to him at Pangchukha, a cow shed area on the way to Phasuma village.

Leyma Lakchuma Shi Dhi Yug

My Father saw a group of students returning for winter vacation from Bongo school and he remarked ‘Yithrubi Leyma Tshu Wong Dhey (student children are coming). ‘Yithrub’ is a proper Dzongkha but the word ‘Leyma’ is not and Bongops fancy using ‘Leyma’ to call group of children.

Another similar phrase is Leyma Lakchuma Shi (grab children by their hands). Lakchuma shi dhi yuk (grab by the hand and throw or swing). That sounds quite violent and I personally get the picture of someone swinging a kid by their hands before they are thrown on the ground. But that is only my imagination and don’t cultivate the image that all Bongops are fond of Leyma Lakchuma Sheni!

Chu Bawto and Bawchu

These should not be surprise to many who have had their stints in rural Bongop villages in 1990s and early 2000s. Fetching water is the main job of the Bongop children and during our time, the PET Sunflower Oil containers were already in our villages. These are used to fetch and collect water at homes. These rubber containers are called ‘Chu Bawto’ for bigger sized ones and smaller ones are called ‘Bawchu’. This phrase also has been elevated to some Bongop’s nick names. If you are fat and have bulging tummy, your risks of being called … Baw or … Bawchu is relatively higher.

Zaatoro and Haatoro

This twin words must have been born together and we are not sure whether both means the same. It means a small aluminum or steel bowl circular in shape in which most of us drink tea or Bangchang. Zaatoro must be smaller in size than the Haatoro. Haatoro holds more Bangchang than Zaatoro. So at annual rimdros, villagers may be served Bangchang in a Haatoro as it is once in a year feasting given by the host to other villages.

Leykami Chang

Here is my favourite. Not the phrase but the Leykami Chang itself. It is the local wine made of rice. ‘Leykami Chang gi Leysi Na Chaap’ which means the ‘rice wine struck me right into my cerebrum’. Try saying this again and again to exercise your lungs as this phrase together creates lot of diaphragm movement.

Hapa Dhu Dhu

This is my personal favourite. Hapa  dhu dhu. It means ‘fully drenched’. I was fully drenched in the rain will be best communicated by Bongops when they say ‘Chap Key Hapa Dhu Dhu Zo Dhai’.

Geyza Yoo

This is another Bongop phrase which should go straight into the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) dictionary. ‘Geyza Yoo’ means popcorn. I am not aware of any equivalent Dzongkha term for popcorn. ‘Chaab Bjhir Cheb Taang Chap Dha Geyza Yoo Hoo Za Go’ which means to say ‘When the rain is falling so heavy outside, it is time to make popcorns at  home’.

Kaam Tholim Chaap

When you tangle your feet and flip over and fall, the term Bongops use is ‘Kaam Tholim Chaap’. I don’t have much explanation for this phrase but leave it as it is for reader’s interpretation.


This is a big one which deserves the attention of the DDC because they still don’t have a Dzongkha word for ‘storm’. When the weather is bad and there is thunder and lightning and wind it is a sign of storm coming. So the phrase Bongops will use will be ‘Sooenam Beni Mey’.

In continuation, what is the word for lightning in Dzongkha? Well officially it is ‘Naam Lokeym’. But Bongops have a simpler phrase for it. It is

Naam Pata Bey

This is very practical, as far as I see at the phrase. When the lightning occurs, it is similar to someone drawing a sword out of the sheath. But the one drawing sword here is the sky. So it is basically that the ‘sky is drawing its sword’ which Bongops will say as ‘Naam Pata Bey’. Add to that the storm which is about to come. Bongops will go ‘Sooenam Beni mey, Naam Pata Bey Dho’. This could even be used as tongue twister for Dzongkha learners! That is my exaggeration though.

Mmmmm Teee

It is difficult to bring the strength and tone of this phrase in English but I just put some random numbers of ‘M’s so that you can stay longer on the ‘M’ phonic sound. But in the second syllable ‘T’ should be phonic sound of that Indian ‘T’. Hope you can get it. The phrase means ‘Not give’. If I say I will not give you, Bongops will go like ‘Nga Choelu Mmmmmmm Teee (add more and more ‘M’s to add extra charm to this phrase).

Baam Dham

Now in Dzongkha we find one meaning of ‘Bundle’ to be ‘Baam Chag’. In Bongo, ‘Baam Dham’ is the word used to tie something as a bundle. Example to ‘Bundle a paddy straw’ will be communicated as ‘Suma Baam Dham Ni’.

Akchu Shor

This is a classic vulgar word but we use it all the time. The literal translation itself says ‘water of shit’ which means your piss. When we used to piss in our pants as children, our parents would be heard saying ‘Leyma Dhom Na Akchu Shor So Dhu’.

And finally, my favourite one. Guess what you say for paying someone in cash. People this days will say ‘Nga Cash Na Troedhai’. But Bongops will say…

Nyul Lag Troed Ein

Isn’t this beautiful? ‘Nyul Lag Troed’ which means the ‘cash was given in the hand’. Well that was when there was no cheque or no internet banking and MBOB or even Bank accounts. But ‘Nyul Lag Troed’ may deserve consideration for inclusion in our DDC dictionary again.

That is all for today and hope other Bongops will add more and more of our native words to this lists. What about we even build a dictionary of Bongop phrases? It is not unachievable.

Sangay Thinley

February 28, 2017

Notes: Bongop Phrases to this writeup were contributed by Bongop Lobza Nima (Uniqlo Shop Owner in Thimphu), Lam Dawa (School Principal and currently Mahidol University student) and Jigme Dorj (Taktse Lecturer). So this Bongop words used here are hugely biased to proper Bongo.




Terton Drukdra Dorji and Oral Accounts from Bongops

The oral account was collected by Thinley Jamtsho (now Planning Officer of Zhemgang Dzongkhag), Dendup Chophel (Ph.D. Fellow of Australia National University) and Sangay Thinley (Master student of Nagoya University). They were working as Research Officers with the CBS when this piece was written in 2013. Full article is also shared at the end for anyone interested. The text here is only parts mentioning the oral accounts.

Following individuals provided the oral accounts:

  1. Ap Gongtse of Chapcha
  2. Rinzin Dorji, Son of Lam Geshey
  3. Ap Lhaba, Labarma
  4. Ap Tsendra, Meritsemo
  5. Lopen Nagphel, Incarnation of Yongzin
  6. Late Azha Kencho Tshering, Bongo

The Prophecy and Persecution: Version One of the Life and Death of Terton Drukdra Dorji

Even though Terton Drukdra Dorji has been associated with some critical visions concerning modern Bhutan, his biography today remains hard to locate if it was there at all. However, in many places of Chukha District where the Terton spent many years conducting religious services, oral accounts of the Terton’s life is recounted to these days. According to one of these versions, while the Terton was residing at Lungchu-tse, Tsalu-na and other sacred sites (sbas gnas) conducting beneficial activities for the sentient beings, a vicious rumour spread that he was destined to retrieve a Treasure from Paro Chumophug called gnam lcags ‘o ma’i ral gri.

Getting wind of the persistent rumour, the reigning 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye (1707-1719)14 called the Terton and asked if it was true that such a Treasure was destined for him to which he answered that it was indeed the case. The Desi then consulted his omniscient in-house priest who said that should the Treasure be retrieved, then the days are numbered for the two of them15 to see the white clouds and drink the chilled water.16 He reasoned that in their previous lives, they were not on good terms with Zhabrung Rinpoche and so resorted to malignant dedication against him because of which when they were reborn, they were well placed to do harm to his state.

The Sungkhorb further submitted that since the Treasure had the potential to naturally eliminate malignant beings, they should contrive against the possible retrieval of the Treasure. He pointed to the fact that in the Nyingma tradition, for a being to fully realize his potential partner, he needs an appropriate consort. The most appropriate consort in this regard was a lady with beard called Khasa Bjeru Zhoem from Paro Nap Khasa. However, in place of this lady, the Desi by force made the Terton to establish relation with his own maid who had signs of all nine evils from Wang Khasa and the two of them to retrieve the Treasure. Upon arrival at Chumophug, the inauspicious union led to all the Treasures vanishing into thin air. But hidden from the perception of all people present, three relics (‘phel gdung) of the Buddha presented themselves into the palms of the Terton.

On his return, the Terton reached Paro Dhop Shari where he instructed the leading family17 there to mould the image of either a Buddha or Guru Rinpoche in which the relics should be enshrined in the offering bowl. At some future time, the relics will proliferate and emerge via the nose. Upon hearing that such a statue had been made, some evil minded people vandalized it in the hope of extracting the relics. They were unsuccessful in their design and claimed that this was false. Upon inspection later, it was found that the relics had in fact moved till the neck of the statue. Thus, fearing the exposure of more critical facts which could threaten their position as Desi and priest, they made an arbitrary decision to exile the Terton who subsequently was made to go to the southern borderlands where it was believed his impact would be negated by the sheer remoteness of the place. On route to his destination, he first reached the place that is nowadays called Damchu where the people from Chapcha and Lobneykha were raising their horses in a serene meadow. The people could not however reside in the place as there was no clean water source. To this predicament, the Terton informed to the delight of the people that there was a Karmic relation between him and the people there from their past lives. So, he will create a sacred water source while they should arrange for ration. This arrangement was subsequently fulfilled by both parties thus heralding an auspicious relation which was to last to this day.
Following the traditional route, the Terton next arrived at Tsimasham where he practiced Abidharma (mngon pa) for three months leaving behind his bodily imprints. Moreover, in a nearby place, he left his footprints as well as that of his mount and created sacred water source because of which the place became auspicious and today the Dzong of Chukha is located in this place.

Subsequently, the Terton arrived at the place where now the dam of the Chukha Hydro Power Project is located. Even though the people say that the stone-pile the height of a three-storied building is called Dho Jangchub (Awakening Stone), it is actually the Bumpai Ney (Hundred Thousand Secret Site) where it is prophesized that a hundred-thousand monks will assemble in the future. The Terton then visited the waterfall resembling water offering that is just opposite the site of Bumpai Ney and retrieved Treasures thus turning the site into a sacred grove for the faithful. He also left imprints of his foot as well as that of his horse apart from creating sacred water source. Then just before he reached Gedu, he left the imprint of his mount in a place called Lachugang. To the pleasant surprise of the construction workers who tried fruitlessly to dislodge the boulder bearing the imprint during the laying of the national highway along that stretch, the boulder stood firm despite the use of rock explosives. Therefore, the road was made around the boulder and today travelers can see the unscathed imprints for themselves.

After performing these miraculous feats in various places along the highway, the Terton reached a place called Labarma in Bongo Gewog where he meditated in a cave on the Troetroema cliff where he again founded a natural sacred spring source. Following the traditional path, he then reached the border area in a place called Passakha.

According to the accounts of the people, the reason why the Terton had to go to this place was because this was an outlying area away from the purview of the government at the centre and thus it was a safe haven for those who escaped the heavy tax burden of the state or fugitive figures like the Terton himself. It was the auspicious fruition of Karma which led the Terton to the sacred site of Lhamo Ekajati called Aum Kangchigmai Ney where he spent years on end practicing and propagating the Dharma.

Later the Terton made the determination to return to the Centre to which Aum Kangchim raised objection saying that obstacles to his life could result from this adventure. However, the Terton was adamant at which point, Aum Kangchim said that even she was a tenth bhumi Bodhisattva18 and her objections cannot be dismissed thus. She took many wrathful forms to get the Terton to consent, but instead the Terton miraculously created ritual object (dmar gtor) in negation of her powers. The sacred stone which we can still see is believed to be the remnant of this object.

In fulfillment of his destiny, the Terton made the fatal return journey during which Lhamo Ekajati accompanied him till the village of Agay Lakha in the guise of his riding horse. The footprints of the Terton and the Mount along with the marks made by his staff can be clearly seen on the sacred stone in this village. As predicted by Lhamo Ekajati, misfortunes accrued to the Terton’s life force as he was confronted with two assassins from the village of Bjabchu at the cliff of Troetroema. However, all known weapons to mankind could not inflict harm on the Terton, and while the assassins were pondering, the Terton who through his visions knew that his time was now at its end, instructed the assailants to try the famous method of bloodless death in the Himalayas by way of choking. Saying thus, the Terton gave his belt to the two men who used it to stifle the Terton and then stuff silk scarves down his throat thus assassinating the saint in water pig year of 1713. Thus the cliff which was formerly called Troetroema was in grief called Trongtrongma (bkrongs, an honorific word for assassination).

After the regretful passing away of the Terton was conveyed to the Tsamdra Trulku Je Ngawang Drub, he sent his disciples to receive the earthly remains (sku gdung) of the Terton from the cliff. On the first day of the journey, the body was received at Tsimasham where the BOC station is located today. The spot is said to be strangely barren as if burnt but due to development activities, this cannot be attested any longer. On the second leg of the journey, the bodily remains were received at a stone slab near the Chabcha Dzong.

The next day, preparations were made to receive the remains in Tshamdrag. However, this could not be done as the body showed sign that its final resting point was at that particular place. Therefore, presided over by the Tsamdrag Trulku, it was decided that the Terton was to be cremated near the Chabcha Dzong. It was then that the body lent itself easily to be laid for the final rites. After the cremation, a strong gust of wind took all the ashes (spur thal) upwards to the heaven at which point the Tsamdrag Trulku begged for some residue to be left for the benefit of the sentient beings and managed to secure a handful. With the relics thus secured and the Terton’s own saintly clothes (bla chas), a reliquary stupa was built at the location as an object of faith which is believed to fulfill all enlightened wishes. This account of the passing away of the Terton to the realm of no bounds is the first of two versions of the life and death of Terton Drukdra Dorji as narrated by the elders.

An Outlandish Master, Exile and Death: Version Two of the Life and Death of Terton Drukdra Dorji

According to the second version of the oral account of Terton Drukdra Dorji, in the medieval days, Bhutan was divided by the factional self-interests of the Desi and regional Penlop-s (dpon slob). Around that time, Terton Drukdra Dorji was residing at Lungchutse above the Dochula mountain pass. As the pass roughly forms a geographical division between the west and east of the country, warlords residing on one side of the pass harboured suspicions that the Terton was aiding the warlords of the other side and vice versa. This tense situation came to a head when in a heated altercation; the Terton stabbed the Changangkha Lam on his ribs with his hand-held ceremonial dagger. For this assault, the Terton was incarcerated and sent to Chabcha Dzong where the Penlop
who was from Dokhachu Goenpa was a deeply pious man.

Even though the Terton was technically a prisoner, the Penlop treated him with great reverence, offering him a place
of honour in his personal altar and entertaining him with special foods and drinks at night even though during the day time, the Terton had to be lodged in a cell below the central tower (dbu tse) of the Dzong. This secret arrangement was soon leaked to some evil-minded people who reported the whole affair to the government which immediately transferred the Penlop to the remote borderland with a demotion as some sort of border minder (sa srung pa). The Terton was recalled to Paro where he was unceremoniously bundled in a leather rucksack and cast away in the river. Upon the exposure of the lapses on the part of the Penlop who served the Terton disregarding the higher order, the Terton assured the Penlop that he should feel secure even in his new posting as Aum Kangchim who was his secret consort would look after his welfare.

As the Terton was destined to live longer for the benefit of sentient beings, fortune favoured him. An elderly fisherman and his younger friend were at this time setting fish traps in a ravine river called Changchang Yarlokma when the rucksack got struck in the trap of the younger man to his utter dismay. He cursed his luck for landing a useless catch and was about to set it afloat again when the elder man offered to exchange his fishes for the sack. However, when they opened load, a corpse appeared inside because of which they were about to cast it away again. However, to their relief, the Terton introduced himself and instructed the two men not to do him harm. In appreciation of the instant change in the behaviour of the two men, the Terton said that all the negative merits they earned so far from their debased occupation will be absolved with his rescue in their hand. The two men thus returned home as changed men while the Terton roamed the jungle in search of food and shelter. The place was named Beyul Kinzang (Auspicious Secret Place). As summer approached, the heat became overwhelming and the Terton moved upwards till he reached the confluence of Thimphu chu (river) which swirled from the right and the Tshechu Lum chu moved from the left and came upon a beautiful miniisland like the location of the Punakha which he named Gawaithang (Happy Plain). Then the Terton continued to move till he reached the Kekema village from Arugang where he asked the people what the name of the place was. The people answered that the village was called Kekema on which the Terton said that a more suitable name should be given to the place and thus named it Phatshuma.

After Phatshuma, the Terton headed towards Bongo in the guise of a lay priest, but on the way, he suffered extreme fatigue and hunger. However, a group of cow herders saw his plight and offered boiled milk and nourishment because of which the Terton rejuvenated and again asked for the name of the place to which the herders replied that it was Patalakhu. The Terton said that a more suitable name for the place would be Sonamthang (Meritorious Plain) as the people there accrued great merit by hosting him. Today it is believed that even the poorest household in this place has a few head of
cattle because of the Terton’s blessings. Just before the Terton reached the village of Bongo, he turned to have a last glance at Pasakha. The spot from where he did so is today called Semdang-gang as he experienced a feeling of clarity there. Then upon reaching the village that is today Bongo, the Terton said that the village is located on the head of the treasure trove of Namsey (Vaishravana) and thus named it  Bongo (bang mgo). From Bongo, the Terton reached the place that is called Jungley today. The name is an onomatopoetic corruption of the name given by the Terton to the place which he called Joen-ley after the deities there welcomed him with greetings. While the Terton was in meditation at this place and contemplating building a bridge to connect the two deep valleys of Bongo and Miritsemo, some people who harboured ill-feelings for the Terton relayed reports of the Terton’s escape and his sojourn in this place.

Upon getting this intelligence, the Desi issued edict that were relayed from one village to another by designated errands in these places.19 The message was that whichever person was successful in eliminating the Terton will not only see his tax obligations20 to the government pardoned, but by virtue, his whole village will be written off as well. When this incentiveladen message reached Jabchu Mepisa, two misguided men thought that now their whole village can get rid of taxes owed to the government for generations to come and thus decided to take on the challenge. They departed from their village with this evil plot and upon reaching Miritsemo, another accomplice called Ap Takchung joined them who said that he knew where the Terton was and thus, the partners-in-crime reached Joenley. Upon reaching the village, they feared an encounter with the famed strongman of this village called Drodrew who might foil their plot. So, they deviously went to his mother in a bid to deceive her. They pretended to ask for her son, but the old woman who was roasting rice told Ap
Takchung to give his hand which she then put inside her armpit and held it there. Ap Takchung was unable to free himself from this hold and so, the old woman told Ap Takchung to return for if he was no match to an old woman, he might well be grievously injured by her son should an encounter occur.

However, the three men would not concede and so they hatched a plan to secretly carry off the Terton together with his meditation hut. Ap Drodrew heard the commotion while they were attempting to do so, and with the strongman in their pursuit, they had to abort their plan and flee to safety which they did by crossing the river which acted as the village boundary from where trespassing was not allowed. So, Ap Drodrew had to give up his pursuit at this point but he took a boulder from there as a representative of the Terton which the elders of the village attest to but which is no longer there for us to see.

Upon reaching the cliff previously known as Troetroema, but which nowadays is called Trongtrongma, Ap Takchung returned home to Miritsemo, thus not becoming a part of the heinous act. The two men from Jabchu would not back down and they tried to execute the Terton in vain as all their weapons failed. Seeing their persistence and knowing that his time was now up, the Terton instructed two men to use his own scarf and stuff it down his throat. The two men accordingly wrapped the scarf around their sword and stuffed in down the throat of the Terton thus suffocating the Master to death.

The earthly remains of the Terton was then carried to where the Chukha Hydro Power Project is today located on the first day. The next day, the body of the Terton was received above where the present-day BOC station of Tsimasham is located at a spot called Lam Seou Drangsa where preparations were made to offer the customary meals to the ethereal remain of the Terton when it blurted that the person who will offer the meal is on his way referring to the Tsamdrag Trulku who was then actually coming to receive the Terton.

A preparation for the night was made at a place near the Chabcha Dzong. The next day, it proved humanly impossible to lift the body and a report was sent to the Desi to that effect. The Deb (sdep, an alternative word for Desi) then sent words that should that be the case, preparation for the ceremonial cremation should be made immediately at the same location. The cremation was conducted the same day. As with the first version, when a windstorm struck and blew away all the ashes, only a handful could be saved which the Tsamdra Trulku entreated the Terton to leave behind for the benefit of the sentient beings. A reliquary stupa was then built with this relic as the main content. And thus end the second version of the oral accounts of the life and death of Terton Drukdra Dorji.

Rebirth of the Master: Account of the Omniscient Master

After the untimely and ignominious passing away of Terton Drukdra Dorji who constantly faced obstacles to his practice and life, his reincarnate Lam was born in the border areas of Tibet and China and was popularly called Lam Geyshey by the people of Chukha where he returned following his instinct from his previous life. As Terton Drukdra Dorji was killed by strangulation, Lam Geshey’s speech was stifled but when chanting mantra and performing rituals, his speech was clear.

The circumstances’ surrounding the birth of the Lam is rather mysterious. His mother who was mute had a male relative who was a cantor (dbu mzad) in a monastery. One night, he had an unusual premonition, and thus went to check on the mute woman who had delivered a child. By the time the monk got home, the people there had already discarded what they thought to be a misformed feutus. Unable to believe, the monk went to look for what was delivered by the woman when he saw two vultures incubating. The birds’ heat had kept the new born baby boy alive to the great delight of the monk who took the boy to his monastery and fed him sheep’s milk. As the boy grew, he was admitted as a monk and was educated in the various monastic disciplines.

The Lam then turned his stead to the south21 according to his destiny and after reaching Ralung, the origin of the Drukpa order, along with his shepherd follower named Chagma, hedescended down to Bhutan from Paro and then finally reached Chabcha where he revived the old sacred spring sources created by Terton Drukdra Dorji. He spent three years in meditation during which time, the people of Chabcha generated deep faith and reverence to his person.

After his long sojourn in Chabcha, the Lam went to Bongo with nothing except his khri khur. As the Lam practiced a sacred chant ritual (bcos tshogs) with hand-held drums in the manner of village shamans, the people mistook him for one of them and thus had little regards for the Lam even though he spent a fortnight there. The Lama subsequently returned to his Chabcha. While he was in Bongo, he predicted that the newly conceived child of his host will be a boy. So, after a year, the child was born as predicted and he returned to Bongo amidst greater fanfare and gained considerable patrons. The Lam again made a return to Chabcha and when he came back to Bongo, the people entreated him to stay there as their village priest to which he agreed. The Lam then wanted to construct a meditation hut above the village but the people said that there are no water sources nearby. The Lam said this was not a concern and he will take care of it. As said, after five days, his follower Chagma and another assistant called Drub Tshering discovered that the spot where the Lam laid a stone slab was bubbling with a new spring. This sacred water source can still be seen today.

While residing in Bongo, the Lam not only administered religious service, but since he was also an adept artist with good grasp of all traditional art forms (bzo rig bcu gsum), he also produced many amazing artifacts of which his hand made altar and statues can still be seen today. Even though the Lam spent most of his time in Bongo, he was also concurrently the Lam of Gedu where he spent seven years in meditation on its mountain top. He also offered religious services to Miritsemo where of his many extraordinary feats; he revived the sacred water source at the Trong Trongma cliff where Terton Drukdra Dorji passed away. In Gedu, there was a prolonged drought and crop failure because of which the people requested the Lam for a solution. The Lama meditated at the mountain top retreat where he miraculously re-created a water body which dispelled all the afflictions.

Despite spending many years in these remote areas, the Lam did not give into the temptations of the worldly word and led a pure and inscrutable life. However, as the destiny to propagate his lineage came, the Lama came into contact with the wife of the village headman (rga po) called Tandin and a
daughter was born. After the lady passed away, he performed all the rites. After that, he took another secret consort at the place called Biri and a son was born.

After his prolonged stay in Bongo, he suffered a severe food poisoning and was subsequently shifted to Miritsemo. Upon reaching Miritsemo, the Lam expressed his wish to pass away there in the house of a wealthy man in the village called Nado. However, fearing impurity from the occurrence of the death in his house, he refused to let the Lam fulfill his wish because of which the Lam had to be stretchered to Biri where he took a wife. It is said that because of this lack of faith, Nado’s family lost its wealth within no time.

Upon reaching Biri, his long-time attendant Chagma passed away for which he conducted the rites. It was at this time that the Lam said that he was Terton Drukdra Dorji and that after he passed away, there is no need for any other master to perform his funeral rites. After the Lam passed away, his funeral ceremony was performed during which his skull cap (dbu thod) dislodge itself as with other enlightened beings and fell in front of his son Rinzin Dorji after which he took it to his home. However, an ex-monk advised the son not to keep it without cremating as this might cause the next rebirth of the Lam to be born without some faculties of the body. Consequently, the skull was cremated too after which the ashes were encased in a reliquary stupa. It is said that as the son was still young, he could not keep the merit (gnos grub) granted by his father.

The reliquary stupa was built near the present day Gedu town in the village of Laptsa-kha by the former representative of the village, Chimi drep Tsendra. Apart from the stupa, a derelict temple founded by the Lam in Miritsemo which was built in an inconvenient location was later restored and built close to a big boulder on which the Lam frequently took rest during his lifetime. All these deeds were done under the coordination of Tsendra by the people of Miritsemo in memory of Lam Geshey.

Even though no formal recognition was ever conferred on Lam Geshey as the reincarnation of Terton Drukdra Dorji, the people say that based on his great services to the Buddhist teachings and his peculiar method in doing so, there is no doubt that he was indeed the rebirth of the great Terton Drukdra Dorji. With these, the oral accounts of both the Terton and his probable rebirth (sku tshe gong ‘og gnyis) come to an end.


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