Decades ago Darachu area, about 25 kilometres away from Tsirang towards Sarpang, used to be home to at least six large lakes.

Locals say there used to be only one household in that area then.

An elderly resident, Tshering Sherpa, 87, is among the few who knows some history of the lakes.

He said that although he cannot trace when his parents and grandparents settled there, he remembers seeing at least six lakes in that area. “They were all considered sacred.”

Soon after developmental activities began with the construction of the Gelephu-Tsirang highway, he said that the biggest lake located about 200 meters below the highway began drying up.

“With the big lake drying up, the other five completely dried within few years,” he said.

Tshering Sherpa said his father, who was a lay monk used to make an offering to the deity (Lu) at the lake. “The offering could not be continued after his death because there was no monk in the locality.”

Today, thick grasses have covered the marshy areas that are identified as lakes.

“This whole area used to be filled with water then,” Tshering Sherpa recalled, pointing to the places.

He also said that there was a pair of duck that ensured no dirt entered the lake. “Although the lakes were surrounded by huge trees, the ducks picked up any fallen leaves immediately. It is not known what happened to the ducks.”

Adjacent to the lake runs a walking trail, the old path for travellers between Sarpang and Tsirang when there was no road connectivity.

It is believed that women could not look at the lake and if they did, the water level rose as if it was boiling. Heaps of stone can be seen on the lower side of the lake even today. The stones served as a wall, thus preventing the visibility from the footpath.

However, Tshering’s daughter, Dawa Wangmo Sherpa, 49, remembers passing by the lake when she was young but there wasn’t any supernatural formation.  “By then all the sacredness of the lake might have been gone. More than half of the water had dried up,” she said.

It is believed that the lake dried up because of dirt and distortion of the deity’s home. Few settlements above the lake have their sewerage flowing towards the lake area.

The surrounding is strewn with empty liquor bottles, pet bottles, plastics, papers and worn out shoes.

Dawa Wangmo said that earlier, the people residing below the highway reared pigs and poultry and the excretion was diverted towards the lake. “Had there been no developmental activities here, the lake would not have dried up,” she said.

Tshering Sherpa said that ever since the lake started drying up, one or the other member of his family have been falling sick. One of them has a broken limb, another met with a fatal accident, his wife died a premature death and the youngest son was run over by a car in Sikkim recently.  Whenever they conduct rituals at home, lamas have told them the deity of the locality has been troubled.

In a move to revive the lake, Patshaling gewog administration is currently studying the surrounding. A team of gewog officials made their first visit on March 8.

The gewog gup, Chabi Kumar Rai, said that although it is only a plan at the moment, the gewog office is serious about reviving the lake. “We’ll begin by cleaning the surrounding from the first Saturday next month,” he said. “We’ll do whatever we can.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang