Neten Dorji | Trashigang

More than 1,500 people gathered in Trashigang dzong to witness the four-day annual tshechu that started on December 5.

Going by figures, the crowd increased this year after the Trashigang tshechu committee banned gambling.

A businessman, Pema Wangchuk, said the dzongkhag officials made a good decision by banning gambling this year. “There are more people watching the tshechu this time.”

He said usually there are only fewer people witnessing the tshechu and more in the gambling ground.

Another businessman said that tshechu is a grand event where the entire community comes together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessing and socialise.

He said tshechus promote culture but when gambling are allowed, not many people come to watch the tshechu.

However, garment vendors are worried that they would not be able to earn much income this year.

A vendor, Tshundu Lhamo, said without gambling stall, there is less entertainment in the town.  “Gambling attracts people to visit our stall. While man play games, other family members do shopping.”

Another vendor, Pema Choden, said the number of people visiting the stalls decreased this year comparing to the past. “I think this is because the games were not allowed.”

She is worried she would not be able to recover her expenditure.

Vendors say gambling is allowed across the country during the tshechus. “While some dzongkhags allow it openly, I don’t understand why places like Trashigang have a different rule,” a vendor questioned.

The vendor said it is confusing because the rules differ from places to places. “If the government wants to ban the game, the rule should be applied uniformly in all dzongkhags.”

Trashigang dzongdag, Chekey Gyeltshen, said that any activities that include betting consisted of gambling, which is illegal. “Gambling is like day robbery where everything is lost at the end.”

He said gamblers make noise, violated rules and regulation and do not close the stalls on time. “We requested police to monitor if there are any gambling activities. I would also visit personally.”

An official said the dzongkhag has declared tshechu holiday so that everyone could witness the tshechu. “It was only civil servants and few people who witness the tshechu.”

The dzongkhag tshechu committee comprises of representatives dzongkhag, rabdey, municipal, police and head of regional offices.

Trashigang lam neten, Karma Rangdrel, said that dzongkhag tshechu is conducted once a year, but gambling could be conducted anywhere and any time. “It is important for people to watch the tshechu, receive blessings and pray.”

He said the government is also spending lots of money to conduct the dzongkhag tshechu. “Tshechu is like a big ritual for the country and people but many ignore and prefer gambling, which is bad from the religious side.”

The lam neten said if gambling increases, there would be no one to witness the tshechu in future. “In the past, we didn’t see such games during the annual tshechu. It has become popular recently.”

He said gambling is like enticing others. “It leads to loss of wealth and creates many problems in communities and family. It is better we stop gambling for good.”

The dzongdag claimed that the dzongkhag tshechu committee has banned gambling not to gain popularity and show an example to other dzongkhags. 

“Outsiders would not care if we do not preserve our culture,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are about 55 stalls at the archery ground below the bus station. Five are food stalls and the rest vendors.