Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Divine Bastards

"Bastard" is not a nice word to use no matter how politely you put it. People try to polish it as 'fatherless', but how can a child be born without father? Dzongkha equivalent word for bastard is Drang, which is equally devastating, therefore in some regions it's coded as 'child of rooster'.

A person born out of wedlock is referred to as a bastard and even if you are one you don't want to be addressed so. You would rather say your father was killed by a snake than to admit that he was alive somewhere with no regard for you and your mother. But how would you react if you were a bastard of a supernatural father?

I counted three prominent figures from our past who were proud to be called bastards because they weren't fathered by ordinary beings. They were believed to be bastards of powerful local deities of three different regions. 

Paro Penlop Agay Haap was believed to be the drang of Ap Chundu, the powerful local deity of Haa, Tapön Migthol, the chief bodyguard of famous Chakpa Sangay was believed to be the drang of a local deity of Tangsibji, Trongsa and Kawang Mangkhel was considered the drang of Dechenphug Gayney. They lived with the reputation of being invincible.

Dr. Karma Phuntsho, in his book History of Bhutan, says, "Such stories of beautiful maidens being impregnated by local gods and spirits were well known in medical Bhutan and often used for explaining the unusual physical strength and agility of some men. These children with non-human fathers are often referred to as bastards or drang of particular deity or spirit and their formidable strength attributed to their non-human paternal origin. "

All the three divine bastards coincidentally lived during Jigme Namgyal's time. Imagine the bravery of Jigme Namgyal to have the heart to live and fight among people of such deadly reputation. Except for Penlop Agay Haap the two others were Jigme Namgyal's biggest hurdles in the western regions, though in different times. 

Our country saw re-ignition of civil war in 1850 during the reign of 38th Desi Wangchuk Gyalpo. Following a biased verdict that went against Agay Haap and his allies, they stabbed the desi to death and installed Zhabdrung incarnate Jigme Norbu as the 39th desi. On the other side of Dochula Chakpa Sangay appointed himself as Desi and took control of Punakha and Wangdue, thereby dividing the country into two.


Jigme Namgyal was not even Trongsa Penlop then when he was invited by Agay Haap’s Party to fight along side his cousin Desi Jigme Norbu. After the military campaign Jigme Namgyal and his two brothers stayed back in Punakha and it was then that he ambushed Chakpa Sangay’s righthand Migthol. The invincible chief of Punakha troop, who was reputed to have super human strength, died in the hands of Jigme Namgyal against whom he held grudge from their earlier meeting during the reconstruction of Punakha Dzong. 

Agay Haap was Paro Penlop for the longest time and lived up to his invincible reputation and perhaps died a natural. Among many legends, he was known for setting Zhabdrung incarnate Jigme Norbu free from Punakha Dzong when Chakpa Sangay and allies took control of the dzong. Finally it was him who put an end to Chakpa Sangay chapter by faking reconciliation and presenting him with a silken robe infected with smallpox, which killed him.

And the last divine bastard, Kawang Mangkhel appeared in the later part of Jigme Namgyal’s life when he became the 51st Desi. He was aspiring to become Paro Penlop and his brother Kusho Lama Tshewang was then the Thimphu Dzongpon. The two brothers were standing between Desi Jigme Namgyal and his absolute power over the country. In order to expand his dominance over the western region Jigme Namgyal plotted to remove the two brothers and the first target was Kawang Mangkhel, who was the invincible one. Jigme Namgyal forged alliance with Kawang Mangkhel and helped him overthrow Paro Penlop Kipsep only to let him die in the hands of his own spiritual brother Toeb Chushing and the ousted penlop on the very day of his appointment as new Paro Penlop. He was stabbed and thrown out of the window of Paro Dzong. 

Jigme Namgyal, an ordinary son of human parents removing among many the two most feared people who were considered the crossbreed of human and deities from his path, established himself as the most invincible man in the country.   


Disclaimer: This article is focused on the three interesting characters and a few diluted summary of their history. To derive real satisfaction of reading history I recommend Dr. Karma Phuntsho’s History of Bhutan and Tshering Tashi’s Myth and Memory.

2 comments:

  1. A very insightful post, Passu Sir. Although it sounds weird to hear about humans being fathered by invisible deities, it makes some sense because we have been hearing about such miracles in our culture although we have not been able to verify it scientifically. And the history of Bhutan you have put in a nutshell carries important lessons. Thanks for sharing it and reminding us of our great history.

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