Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Memories of Pangkhar Dungnakpo

Pangkhar is a small mystical village under Ura Geog in Bumthang. It is located in the foot of ruins of a Khar (castle) of Dungnakpo, and thus, the name of the village Pangkhar is derived from this historical or cultural location. Pang means ‘village or a plain’ and Khar means ‘castle’, making up as ‘plains at the foot of castle’.

According to the oral accounts, Dungnakpo was a powerful ruler of Ura region during the early times of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594–1651). It is believed that the Dungnakpo was a son of a demigod and born with extraordinary strength and power. The remains and legacy of such a superficial figure are seen even to these days.  

The ruin of the Khar or the Dzong of Dungnakpo is situated on the hill above the old Pangkhar village. The village has stretched much, in chorus to the population growth and developmental activities today. The Khar spread all over the hill, in an estimated area of around an acre. With the size and multiple sign of rooms at the ruin site, it is quite obvious that the Khar stood as one of the giant structures of those days. 

Considering the strategic location of the Khar on the peak of the hill, people believe that the Dungnakpo was a warrior with enemies from all directions. The northern side of the Khar seems strategically weak to defend the enemies, but some of his fortifications still exist. For instance, there are three levels of trench with roughly an average depth of two meters or so, cutting deep into the neck of the hill are still evident.  

One of Dungnakpo’s main rivals was Chokhor-Dep, who was also biologically related with the demigod. He was indeed a nemesis of Dungnakpo. Dep was a renounced ancient ruler of Chokhor region who built the Drapham Dzong (ruined) possibly towards the second half of the 16th century.   

Lore has it that, once Dungnakpo went to Chokhor to challenge the Dep. At Chokhor, he first met Dep’s mother in her kitchen, roasting wheat. “Where are you, child?” inquired the mother. “I came here to see your son”, he replied, little embarrassed though. After smelling some deceitful plans, mother held Dungnakpo tight in her left arm, until she finished roasting her wheat. Then she said the Dep is ploughing the field a little away from their residence. With some feelings of fear in his mind, Dungnakpo sneaked a look from a distance to the Dep who was ploughing the field. He saw Dep holding a running plough with one hand, and plucking full-grown trees on his way with the other hand. This exhibition of might frightened Dungnakpo much. He feared the worst, and headed back home.

Nevertheless, Dungnakpo was incomparable by the ordinary people like us. His remains and legacies are still a mystery for the people. One artefact that would give details of his strength and mightiness is the two pairs of Degor (traditional Bhutanese game played with a pair of spherical flat stones). The huge Degor are still seen at the eastern foot of the Khar. The size of his Degor are almost equal to that of standard dinning-table. It’s would weight not less than 50 Kilograms. Throwing 50 k.g. of Degor with a single hand is something impractical for normal human being.

One timeless legacy that the Dungnakpo remained in Pangkhar village was numerous flat stone bridges. There are as many as six huge stone bridges over the stream running through the middle of the village. Some stone bridges are too huge even to correct a slight angle for ordinary people these days. Amazingly, the sources of these flat stones are also seen near some of the bridges. The stone bridges benefited the people of Pangkhar for several generations, and are still in use.

Lhachhu or the water of God is a water pond in the northeast of the Khar. It is a small pond in a total dry land without a notable source or outlet. It is believed that, to ease the trouble of fetching water especially during the times of war, Dungnakpo stored a box full of water in this preferred location. The water never exhausted or dried up thereafter, and remained as a main source of water for the people residing in the Khar. We can still hear the sound of the wooden box if we hit the base of the pond with a sturdy stick.

A little towards the south of the Khar, is a place called Gortshom. Gor means ‘stone’, and Tshom means ‘mortar’. The name of the place was derived from a huge stone-mortar of Dungnakpo, which is still undisturbed. It is believed that the Dungnakpo’s men and women used this stone-mortar for pounding rice and maize collected from Kurtoe and Zhongkhar region.

One miraculous believe about the Dungnakpo is that, he jumped from the hillside of Gortshom to the place called Bangthama. If calculated straight, the distance would measure roughly around 400 meters. There is an apparent body-print of Dungnakpo at Bangthama. The kneeled-down position body-print on the rock is a testimony of such believes.     

Apart from the exhibition of his power, strength and wealth, there are also some signs to believe that the Dungnakpo is devout in nature. While building bridges in the village with his own hands are the clear indication of his spiritual deeds, some direct religious acts are also remembered. One incidence goes like this: When Galwa Lha Nangpa (1164-1224) entered the Ura valley after crossing the high Monlakarchung mountain and wide Chokhortoe and Tang valleys, Dungnakpo personally received the lama. It is said that the lama and the Dungnakpo had a tea together.  The stone seat of Lama and the Dungnakpo are still seen a little away in the northeast of the Khar. Every summer, some strange weeds use to grow before the seat of the lama and the Dungnakpo. It is believed that the weeds grew from the thrown over feeds of Dungnakpo’s riding horse.

While there is no clear ending of the lore, some believe that the Khar was raised down by a tragic fire catastrophe. However, looking at the stones and woods at the ruin site, there is no sign of fire and burning. Perhaps, this site would cater as one of the best sites for the archaeologists to learn about primitive Bhutan. With notable cultural landscape, the site would offer a wide range of artefacts with possible biofacts or ecofacts. Let us pray that, one day, the rubbles of this Khar will rise up to its former glory, overlooking the beautiful Pangkhar village.  


  1. Really beautiful stories of our ancestors. Legendary and mystical as they sound we should never discount the power of a story. It defines who we are

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