Neten Dorji

Keeping with the age-old practise, more than 800 visitors from Tawang, popularly known as dhaps, thronged the Gomphu Kora tshechu in Trashiyangtse, that ended yesterday.

However, the tradition noted a brief interruption during the movement restrictions as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, where the visitors could not attend the popular Gomphu Kora tshechu  and Chenga Kora that dated back to the 8th century.

So far as the memory went, each year, hundreds of dhaps from places like How, Loomla, Dongmareng, and Khobleyteng in Tawang, attend the three-day tshechu.

To attend the festival, the journey for the guests from Tawang beagn at the nearest road point of about a kilometre away from the bordering village of Jangphutse in Bhutan. From Jangphutse, they walked for another 5km to Toedtsho gewog centre road and then hitched a ride to reach Gomphu Kora.

The Dukti village in Yallang gewog also shared a border with Tawang, but in the past not many used the route because of the longer distance. This time, however, about 49 Tawangpas had come using the route.

Cheten Dema, 68 from Dongmareng walked about four hours from the nearest road point in Tawang to Toedtsho gewog in Trashiyangtse carrying all the goods on her back. Then she hired a taxi to Gomphu Kora.

“I came here for three times in the past but couldn’t come for the last three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I am here to receive blessings along with my friends,” she said.

She said the long and arduous distance to travel deterred many from attending the Gomphu Kora festival.

For 30-year-old Tshomo from Loomla in Tawang, it was her first visit.

“In the past, people from my village had to travel on foot to reach Gomphu Kora,” she said. “The tale of long journey discouraged me to come here earlier.”

“When I was young, my parents used to tell me to visit Gomphu Kora,” Tshomo added.

Today, Tawangpas from the farthest of the villages could also make it to Gomphu Kora within a day.

However, according to Lobzang, 52 from Tawang who had attend the Tshechu every year, the number of visitors from Tawang had been declining over the years as the younger generations were not too keen on it.

“With age it is difficult to travel and I think this will be my last visit,” he added.

Lobzang recollects his younger days when he along with his friends dropped by Gomphu Kora almost every year. “Those were wonderful days,” he added.

“Back then people pitched tents in the vast fields of Tserigom and Tawangpas would bring their own mask dances and other native chams to perform at the Tshechu,” said Yeshi Dorji from Tongzhang. “Strongmen competition was also held between the Bhutanese and Tawangpas.”

Toestho Gup, Dechen Wangdi, agrees that visitors from Tawangpa had decreased, but the number of local visitors had increased.

“Compared to the 80s and 90s, the number of people visiting Gomphu Kora tshechu has dropped drastically,” he said.

He said people were seen circumambulating the temple late at night and returning the next day.

The annual three-day Gomphu Kora Tshechu is also a blessing for the businessmen who set up stalls to sell clothes, shoes, toys, religious items, an food during the festival attracting a lot of people.

The one day annual Tshechu ended yesterday with the unfurling of Guru Tshengay Thongdrol.