Choki Wangmo and Zangden Dema work at the Thimphu TechPark. The city bus is their principal mode of transport.
When the new city buses arrived, they welcomed it. On the first day of their ride on a new city bus, they were lost. When the audio message system announced the names of bus stops, they couldn’t figure out anything. They’d never heard the names.
With the arrival of new buses with GPS, bus stop names are also being changed as a part of a project to preserve the original names of places in the capital city.
Chhuba Gangkha, Tshalu Barp, Janglokha, Tshalu Marphey, Naazhina along the Dangrina- Ngabiphu route. Taba Choeten tsawa, Simi Pang Kawang Damisa, Dotshangna in the north and Omkha, Dzongchu and Ramilog are names that will have to be familiarized with.
What is in these names?
The new names are the old names! They were the original names of places in Thimphu before urbanisation. Many names have rich history associated with landscapes and culture of the places providing a peek into the long-forgotten image of the capital city.
Tshogpas of Thimphu Thromde, who were involved in reviving the old names of the places, say it was a very important project.
Taba-Dechecholing tshogpa, Ugyen, said names of the places reflect “our culture and heritage”, which must be preserved. “With modernisation, we are becoming less rooted in our culture and sense of history.”
Tshogpa Sonam Tshering said that most people, even elderlies, are unaware of the history of many local names of the places. “ We carried out extensive consultation. Some had to be coined based on what we heard from our elders.”
While some places were named simply after landscape, others have stories behind them.
Tshalu Marphey, around the project Dantak area has an interesting story. It is believed that a guardian mother and her daughter (Marphey) lived in the lake. “Tsholu”, which means “overflowing lake,”,later got corrupted to “Tshalu”. Tshalu Barp is believed to have coined in the past to separate Tshalu Marphey with Babesa.
One of the bus stops in Taba is called Taba Choeten Tsawa (near Taba choeten) even though there isn’t a choeten there. Ugyen said that Chorten Tsawa was a popular landmark when he was a little boy. “It was a very popular meeting place.”
Babe Zhing! It is in Taba.
“Who came up with such a name?” asked a passenger, laughing. “Never heard this before and it sounds funny.”
The place got its name after a person from Babena who owned land in Taba sold it to one Aum Zangmo. The name literally translates to “Babena’s field”.
The place where Tashichhoedzong stand today used to be called Chendrong, meaning village of the champions. According to one local interpretation, a couple, Tashi and Chenzom, offered their land to the clergy who were looking for a land to build a dzong. It is believed that the couple even refused compensation and thus the dzong was named after the couple.
Another bus stop in South Thimphu is named Ngagiphu. In the past it was believed that above Royal Thimphu College was home to group of tantric masters specialised in “nga”.
One of the bus stops in Babesa behind Bhutan Council for School Examination’s office is Dolay Gang. In Dolay Gang people of Babesa used to offer sacrifices to the local deity.
Changangkha thuemi, Rinzin, said that many original names of the places are yet to be included on the bus routes and addressing system. He said Motithang Takin Reserve used to be called Namtogri.
The story has it that a daughter of a deity Dam Dajo Bowgulay got so scared and died when the bangle she was wearing started talking. It is said that Bowgulay scrapped precious metal from Yedam Tandin’s statue in Changangkha to make a bangle for her daughter. One day, when the daughter went to collect grass for cattle, her basket was never full and it was getting dark. That’s when the bangle told her to go home.
Jungzhina is believed to be the corrupted form of Jizhina. A boy is believed to have offered Zhabdrung a bunch of “Bji,” a wild berry, while asking for teachings. The place came to be known as Bjizhina, the place from where the boy collected the berry.
There are many such names that will be reflected in the Street Addressing System soon. Commuters will have to get used to the names to alight at the right place.
Hejo is Lhadrong, Swimming Pool roundabout is Goenye jadram. Goenye is the name of the village where the Swimming Pool is today, the truck parking area in Babesa is called Barpi Rinchenthang. In Drukpa Kuenley’s epic poem it’s mentioned that he was destined to meet his consort Barpi Bum Chenzom near Rinchenthang. Since the place was once a vast flat land, it was named Barpi Rinchenthang.