Phub Dem | Paro
Every year, in Paro, as the paddy season begins the people of Khangkhu begin the cultivation first. The people of Taju have to wait for two weeks to begin theirs.
This has been the tradition from long, long ago, which the elders of the village say began due to water shortage.
Over a century ago, perhaps even more, an event took place that was tide-turning in many aspects which led to a convenient between two villages. This covenant may have outlived its utility but what began as a necessity has remained as a culture and tradition.
Khangkhu village is located far from the water source. Even then, the residents got only a smaller portion of water after Taju and other villages had completed paddy cultivation.
One day, a helper from one of the houses in Khangkhu went to feed the water into Khangkhu’s channel. Fight for water could often lead to dangerous and tragic consequences. The man knew that the people of Taju would kill him for diverting water. That bothered him little. What mattered more was that Khangkhu villagers should get water.
In the event that followed, the man from Khangkhu was murdered. But before his death, the man supposedly had said that the people of Khangkhu should not accept any compensation other than water. What followed was a gyenja (a contractual agreement) according to which the people of Taju would wait for water until the whole village of Khangkhu is done with cultivation.
This is the story of how water-sharing is still being practised between the people of Khangkhu and Taju.
One of the community representative, Draygang from Khangkhu, said he heard this story from his parents.
He said that the original agreement was lost. “It has been 90 years since the new one was drawn.”
Draygang explained that the people of Taju could access water for irrigation only after ten days in Khangkhu and four days in two other villages.
Locals believe that paddy transplantation should complete before the summer solstice, after which the rice plants won’t bear grain.
The residents of both the villages strictly follow the ancient custom. However, some changes have come in.
Following the ancient timing is not feasible for the new variety of quality rice. With many farmers using machines to transplant rice, farmers like Samten from Taju said they transplanted rice towards April (third month in the Buddhist calendar).
She said that transplanting the paddy using a machine before Khangkhuthang did not violate the custom. “If we wait until they finish theirs, our rice won’t grow.”
She, however, said that the farmers still followed the custom while transplanting paddy by hands.
According to Gyalpo, it has been three years since some Tajups began transplanting rice using the machine before Khangkhups. “The rice production has doubled since we used the machine, and there was no water shortage as well.”
As per Khangkhups, though, this is tantamount to violation of the custom and agreement and they have filed a complaint against recently.
Ap Draygang said that the agreement did not mention machines, as there was no such alternative then. But he said that transplanting rice before the timing was considered violating the custom.