Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Domchu and Karpo spent almost their entire lives in Talo, Punakha. The powerful attendants of Zhabdrung Jigme Chogyal left behind a whole village of descendants in Dagana. Ironically, the ancestral home popular to have left behind 300 descendants stand dilapidated in the middle of Peling in Tseza.

Three centuries later, what remains of this once towering three-storied traditional house are sinking wooden floor planks, deep cracks on the smoke-stained walls, old winding wooden stairs, and a poorly-lit altar room. The altar room, considered one of the most important and sanctified parts of the house, has lost its importance. A few old calendars with pictures of the Buddha hang loosely from the wall. Two small old statues sit on the altar.

If anyone said that it was once a manor house frequented by the fifth mind reincarnation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, not many would believe it. But the legend has it that Zhabdrung Jigme Chogyal (1862-1904) used the house as his residence and walked several times between Peling and Dagana Dzong. Peling is located five hours on walk from the dzong.

It was while resting on a stone slab under a huge cypress in front of the house that he subdued the evil spirit of Khebisa. The spirit, disguised as a black bitch, is said to have wreaked havoc in Peling.

The two brothers were busy moving from places. Gossip of their home’s ruin reached the ears of their colleagues in Talo, but the two brothers described its ever-lasting glamour. Their defense was short-lived; the truth was soon out.

While playing an archery game in Peling, the friends jeered at the brothers. The Zhabdrung came to their rescue. He ordered the brothers to add a third storey to the house and build a stupa near the cypress tree. Zhabdrung then left for Dagana dzong.

With the help of the villagers, they completed the work in 15 days. The Zhabdrung returned for the consecration ceremony. The brothers’ pride was restored.

No one knows when and how the house got abandoned. The vandalised stupa stands exactly opposite Khebisa gewog.

Gyeltshen, 72, from Peling believes that the brothers’ descendants are spread across 30 households in Dagana. “None of the children live in the house. We are losing a treasury of legacies.”

Other villagers say the house should be restored to its past glory. Some suggest that it be turned into a heritage house or a museum. “We have a bypass connecting Wangdue and Dagana which would attract tourists in the future.”

The granary is still intact. Except that no grain was stored in for over a century. Just like the cold hearth in the corner of the room.