Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Bhutan : The ‘stony’ legend of Soe Dzong

16 June 2008 - One legend, that still lives in the minds and on the lips of village folks near the Jomolhari base camp, pertains to the ruins of the Soe Dzong, whose conspicuous stone walls blend with the rocky landscape it stands upon.

The legend unfolds at campfires when visitors ask about the nearby ruins and is used to explain why the area is so sparsely populated.

The fable is about a tyrant king, who ruled Jangothang at a time when there were about 380 households around the present Jomolhari campsite. The king was not very happy with the location of the dzong and ordered his subjects to build him a palace at Bodhola, a mountain further to the south where there are still traces of spadework and cuts in the mountainside.

While the peasants were working and clearing the site for the new dzong construction, they again received an order from the king claiming that the top of a mountain had to be cut off before building the new dzong because it was blocking the rays of the sun.

The peasants were unwilling because the task looked impossible. Among the disgruntled peasants was an old woman with a baby on her back. She pinched the baby and, when it began to wail loudly, she said, “Better to behead a human than a mountain.”

The old woman is believed to have been the deity of the place who had transformed herself into a human and come to the rescue of the put-upon peasants made to work the impossible. She let the baby’s cry hide her voice from being heard by officers deputed by the king to supervise the work.

So the peasants held a meeting and came out with a solution that it would be better to kill the king than behead the mountain.

One fine day, the people planned an excursion for the king near Nubri. They took him to Mapkhay and stoned him to death. Mapkhay is believed to be full of pebbles and rocks.

Fearing repercussions, the people fled to La Chey La Chung, a place near the present day Indian state of Sikkim.

When the peasants left in large numbers for La Chey La Chung, they took stones from the dzong area so that they could pray and perform their annual rituals for the deity that resides in mount Jomolhari. They kept the stones aligned in the direction of Jomolhari and are said to worship thus to this day.

The stone groups still lying around the dzong area are said to be the remnants of the populace when there were 380 households. The present inhabitants of Soe are believed to be a blend of people from Lingshi, Paro and Yaktsa village.


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