Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

No one knows what’s in the box. Oral history is vague but village elders say that natural disasters will occur if it is opened.

Reportedly, the Je Khenpo sealed the box some years ago, never to be opened. And so it remains, locked away within another metal box.

This is the tale of a forbidden leather box that is housed in the top-storey of Dechen Lhundrub Lhakhang in Tsirangtoed.

“We don’t know what type of leather the content or contents are wrapped with,” said the Lhakhang’s lam, Gangla.

There are two stories about how the object came to be in the Lhakhang.

According to the lam, the leather box probably contains a Zhabdrung statue. He said that when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel visited Jarogang, currently in Wangdue, a lady offered him local rice. Zhabdrung is believed to have made the rice into two rice balls, which later turned into statues. One is in Jarogang. The other flew to Tsirangtoed Dzong.

The other story, according to the lam, is that the leather box belongs to dza tsen, the local deity. “It is a possibility because objects belonging to dza tsen can’t be opened.”

Others link the box with Tsirangtoed Dzong. People say that when the Dzong was in ruins, the relics were transferred to a family home which was named Dechen Lhundrup Lhakhang.

A descendant of the household who is now the Lhakhang’s caretaker, Sonam Tshering, said that the house was earlier a family home with a pigsty on the ground floor.

The leather box is sealed in a modern safe

Village elders say that sensing ultimate ruin, the box is believed to have flown to the Lhakhang from the Dzong.

Since the Dzong is commonly believed to be about 200 years old, Gangla said that the leather box could be older than the Dzong by almost 100 years.

A few years ago, while on his visit, the Je Khenpo reportedly tried to open the box and sought divination. Signs were inauspicious. Since then, it has been locked away from the public, said the lam. “We were told that the time was not right to open the box.”

Residents remember incidents of villages blighted with natural disasters when some high-ranking individuals tried to break open the box.

“There were rainstorms and strong winds,” said one villager.

Fearing dire consequences, the people do not permit anyone to open the box.

For many, the box is from where they receive blessings and have their wishes fulfilled. If we make proper and timely offerings, it is wish-fulfilling, said Sonam Tshering.

Before football and archery tournaments, many people receive blessings from the box. “The victory is guaranteed,” said one villager.

People from far and wide come to make offerings to the box.

“But our aspirational prayers shouldn’t be selfish,” said Gangla sagely. “They should be for the welfare of the country.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk