Ap Chundu’s mythical steed takes the limelight once a year in an appeasement ceremony

Occasion: Norbu, the off-white horse, grazes in the compound of Haa dzong.  Norbu gets VIP treatment because he is the mythical steed of Ap Chundu, the local deity of Haa valley.

Norbu remains tied within the wall of the dzong.  There the white horse grazes to his heart’s delight.  When Norbu is done with one area, he gets shifted to another.

Norbu gets an outing only once a year.  That is during the one-day ceremony to appease Ap Chundu, during the ninth month of the Bhutanese calendar every year.

Visitors wonder about the might and divinity of the lone animal that remains tightly guarded.  Norbu lifts his head high, prances around, neighs and snorts out of desperation, but he has only to graze again.

Norbu is 20 years old and has been serving as the steed of Ap Chundu for the past 15 years.

Lethro, who takes care of Norbu during the Ap Chundu ceremony in Haa, said that Norbu had a bluish hue when young.  Now, aging, he has turned white.

“Ap Chundu needs a male horse that is bluish in colour,” said Lethro.  Norbu is now old and must be replaced.

This day, however, Norbu is bedecked with colours myriad from head to tail.  Dhar Nganga (scarves of five different colours) must be loaded on Ap Chundu’s steed during the special celebration.

“Norbu gets bathed in hot water the night before the celebration. Gets saddled and taken to Lhakhang Karpo, the residence of Ap Chundu, early in the morning to receive Ap Chundu,” said Lethro.

Lethro said that Norbu remains within a confined space because he was important.  Loss would be disastrous.  But Norbu gets visits from female horses occasionally.

Loden Jimba, dzongkhag livestock officer, said that three meals for the horse come from the amount reserved from the dzongkhag’s fund.

“We buy Karma Feed and other locally available grains and feed him, especially during winters,” said Loden Jimba.

Norbu gets a health checkup and medications regularly.

By Nima Wangdi in Haa