A 66-year-old ascetic woman, locally known as Sadhuni, Srimati Rai of Menchulam (Sarpangseer), Sarpang is missing since May 11.

On June 14, Gakidling gup, Nim Dorji Sherpa filed a missing report to Sarpang police. The missing report was filed after the gewog administration failed to find her through a rigorous search for about 22 days into the forest and corners of Kharpani village.

Last year, she was reported seeking shelter by the roadside in Gechu, 30km drive before Tsirang. From Gechu, she had gone to live in a deep forest near Thotney River, which is about an hour away on foot from the nearest village Menchulan (Kharpani).

During the search, villagers found her belongings in her hut near the Thotney River.  In an earlier interview Srimati Rai told Kuensel that she had been living alone in isolated places for the last 43 years. She began living as an ascetic since the age of 22 and has never married.

Srimati moved to Gechu last year after wild animals did not let her live peacefully in a forest above Menchuna village. She had relatives but none visited her, she had said in an earlier interview. She claimed to have moved away from relatives and human settlement because of different food habits. She ate once a day.

Srimati rarely accepted donations in cash or kind and instead told people not to enjoy on others’ wealth. Last year, she shared her desire to live alone as long as she was alive and able to cook for herself. After that, she wished to live in a temple.

Gakidling gup Nima Dorji said that while her belongings were at her hut, her whereabouts in not known. Three months before she went missing, the gup met her and she complained of body pain. “We learnt later that she was missing,” he said.

Villagers suspect wild animals might have preyed on her. Wild animals such as black bears and elephants are found around the area her hut was built.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang