Kuzhugchen, Kabesa, Thimphu — A small stream burbles down to join the river Wangchhu at the foot of the village. In summer, though, this little stream becomes big, very big. And here is a stone bridge that a local nyagoe (strong man) by the name of Kabji Choup laid. The stream then could have been quite sizeable, both in terms of volume and force.
But here the stone bridge had remained, forgotten and buried under the thickets for close to eight centuries. The bridge measures 28cm in height; 124cm in breadth; and 222cm in length.
But then, who was Kabji Choup, really?
Information and details are few and far between. The legend begins with the village and ends with it. Kabesa, as we know today, is a new village.
The Drukpa School of Buddhism had just about begun in Ralung, Tibet. The period is between 1161 and 1210. In that sense, looking broadly, we are in the period of the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the imperial dynasty in China when the idea of paper money began and gunpowder was discovered. It is at this time that Alhazen of Cairo discovered Alegbra, a formula for simplicial number defined as sums of consecutive quartic powers.
In Bhutan, then, every village was governed by a local chieftain. Conflicts and wars were frequent. Peace was rare and prosperity rarer even for the common citizens.
Then came Phajo Drugom Zhipo (in 1224 according to historical records). He was 40 when came to Bhutan from Tibet.
That was the time when Geynen Jagpa Melen of Dhechenphu, Thimphu, perhaps the most original citizen of this country, was running rogue. He would impregnate beautiful girls in villages far and near and disappear altogether. One of his sons was Kabji Choup.
Geynen Jagpa Melen was the emanation of Yidam Tandin, born to Noejin Yobshue and Sinmo Dongmar. And so, his conduct was not virtuous.
Phajo Drugom Zhipo’s great-grandson Damtrul Loden Gyalpo invited the 7th chief abbot of Ralung Monastery in Tibet, Je Jamyang Khuenga Singye to Dechenphu. That was when Je Jamyang Khuenga Singye met with Geynen Jagpa Melen in person and administered upon him Kago-Damzha (suppression ceremony). Historically, we are looking at a period between 1345 and 1347.
Then came to Bhutan the 14th throne holder of Ralung Monastery and the second Gyalwang Drukchen, Je Kuenga Peljor, who administered the second Kago-Damzha on Geynen Jagpa Melen.
From these records we know that Geynen Jagpa Melen stopped his usual wanton ways—we arrive nearer to some sense of time—it was long before the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in Bhutan.
Beyond legend and context
There is still a monumental ruin in Kuzhugchen which is believed to be where Kabji Choup lived before he left for Tibet for good.
There is one thing besides the stone bridge to authenticate the existence of Kabji Choup. Before he left for Tibet, he said this, which is in the lips of every elderly resident of this village:
“On the right part of my house is the home of a thousand Buddhas
On the left is where my dear friend Boep Lim lives
In the middle is “olo rangi tsangtshul”—where I live, sleep, and eat.
These are about all we know about Kabji Choup.
Kabesa as we know today was then known as Kushibji. It was a prosperous village that volunteered to sponsor the establishment of the first dratshang in Bhutan. The villagers paid wongyon and Soelyon (offerings) to the monk body.
Then came the pandemic, most probably Smallpox, which wiped away the entire residents of the village.
The earliest evidence of the pandemic dates back to the third century BC in Egyptian mummies. What we know is that the disease historically occurred in outbreaks. And they were deadly in most cases.
If you go to Kabesa today with open eyes, you will see many ruins. But the village is new. There are no echoes of legends as that of Kabji Choup or the village itself anymore.
We look at our record-keeping habits and systems today. Going by ßthe way we move on, we may be teetering on the edge of narrative extinction—our own stories.