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The revered and feared lake of Chiya is drying
Pema Tenzin, July 18, 2013
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There was a vast meadow. And in the middle of it was a beautiful lake, turquoise blue and calm. Everything that grew around the lake was lush and edible, and the people used to graze their cattle there. That was long, long time ago, in Chiya in Udzorong, Trashigang. In those days, people used to wear animal skins and their cattle were their prized possession.

But the Chiyapas (the people of Chiya village) would routinely lose their cattle mysteriously near the lake. Who was stealing or killing their cattle, nobody knew. It was a mystery.

One day, a farmer lost his ox that was grazing near the lake. The ox was the only wealth he owned. Distraught and pained by the loss, he trailed the hoof prints through the thicket and reached near the lake. And there he saw his ox fighting a big, powerful and handsome white bull. And he stood there, amazed.

The white bull was stronger and was making the hell out of the farmer’s small but well-fed bull. The white bull killed the farmer’s bull. Terrified, the farmer ran back to the village and told the villagers about what he saw by the lake in the meadow. Mystery would thenceforth not be a mystery.

Enraged, the villagers hatched a plan to trap and kill the white bull. They took the strongest bull of the village to the lakeside, with sharp daggers tied to its horns, to fight the white bull of the lake.

The fight began.

Before long, the white bull was killed, of course. And celebration followed. The meat of the dead bull was distributed to every household of the Chiya village. The prey at long last was killed and their cattle would be safe by the lakeside. But stranger things would follow the celebration. An old lady refused the meat.

Towards the evening, the sky became dark with ominous clouds. Thunders roared like never before and shook the whole village. The lake brewed powerful storm, and by nightfall, the lake flooded and wiped out the entire village. The only thing that remained, almost entirely untouched, was the house of the old women who did not eat the meat of the white bull.

The white bull was not an ordinary bull. It was the Tsho Lang, the bull that was reared by the lake. It guarded other animals from coming to the lake. Day and night, it kept watch over the lake and protected it from any harm.

People of Chiya say that the lake is a son of Meme Dangling, the feared and revered lake in Khaling, Trashigang. It is considered LhaTsho, which was kind and gentle to the people of the village. After the killing of the white bull and the subsequent trouble the lake brought to the Chiya, the villagers began to worship and make peace with the lake. The lake then brought timely rain and good harvest every year and the locals began to perform the rituals near the lake. That too was a long, long time ago.

The locals later stopped performing the rituals and the depth of the lake began to decrease. Worried, the villagers started planting trees around. The lake, however, continued to become smaller. That was many years later.

Last year, the villagers saw a drastic change. The lake became so small the people could see the bottom. Forty eight-year-old SonamTshering said the people of the village are worried by the drying of the lake. They think that some big misfortune may be in store for the village that could strike them anytime. He said that some people believe that the misfortune has already struck the village. This year, more than eight people died suddenly without any illness.

“A local pawo (medium) had warned the villagers of bad things the drying of the lake could bring to the people,” he said. “We are already paying the price. I have spent half my life here but I haven’t seen anything like this before. The lake was dark and deep. Now it has become much shallower. Very soon, we will be able to walk across it.”

Today, early in the morning, the Chiyapas are preparing to perform a ritual to appease the lake. And they are hoping for good things to happen to the village.

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