Exhibition: The people of Jarogang, Athang in Wangdue expressed concerns over relics belonging to Jarogang Lhakhang that were taken for an exhibition to Thimphu since September last year.

The issue was raised during a public meeting with their National Council representative.

Villagers said they were surprised to learn that three relics of Jarogang Lhakhang were displayed at an exhibition at the Textile Museum. It consists of a set of a vajra and bell discovered by Zhabdrung from a cliff in Jarogang and a rice statue of Zhabdrung. According to villagers, the statue was made from leftover rice that Zhabdrung’s host Aum Zombachumo offered him.

The Zhabdrung statue made from rice is considered as the main Ngangten of Jarogang Lhakhang, according to villagers. The relics are displayed only during the village’s annual Tshechu.

Some 50 households in Zawa and Jarogang villages under Athang gewog take care of Jarogang Lhakhang.

Jarogang Tshogpa Phurba Thinley said that people were concerned as none of the villagers and local leaders were consulted or informed when the relics were taken.

Tshogpa Phurba said people have been pressurising him ever since they learnt that the sacred relics were taken for exhibition. “People were concerned that the relics could be exchanged or sent outside the country,” he said.

Villagers believe that they have witnessed several bad omens since the Ngangtens were taken away.

Jarogang Lhakhang’s Lam Pema Tshering said he did not inform the people when the Ngangtens were taken for exhibition.

However, he said he informed the gup verbally over the phone.

Lam Pema Tsheirng said two representatives: Wangdue dratshang’s culture representative and Zhung dratshang’s Tshulag Lopon, accompanied by the dzongkhag culture officer came with a letter and collected the relics.

“As soon as people raised concerns about the Ngangtens, I immediately informed officials at the Textile Museum, who gave me original documents of the Ngangtens,” said Lam Pema. “I also informed them to be accountable should anything happen to the relics.”

Lam Pema Tshering said that the relics would be returned to the lhakhang by the end of February as per the information he received from the concerned officials.

The relics were taken for an exhibition titled, “Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel-the founder of Bhutan” that the Textile Museum, Royal Textile Academy and the Department of Culture organised. The exhibition began since September 21, 2016.

The artifacts show cased during the exhibition are on loan from private individuals and monastic institutions.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue