Brahmis Of Trashigang Cannot Resist The Winds Of Change And Modernisation


Their origins are linked to the northern part of Arunachal Pradesh, India.

(Source: Kuensel)


By Neten Dorji Kuensel

Dakpas or Brahmis (outsiders) hail from Thongrong Village in Phongmey Gewog (Village), Trashigang district.

Their origins are linked to the northern part of Arunachal Pradesh, India and they dress like the highlanders of Sakteng and Merak in Bhutan. 

However, this ethnic minority group in Bhutan are not considered part of the highlanders.  

Most Brahmis are fluent in Dakpakha, the language of the Tawangpas (Dakpas) or the Brahmilo.

Origins of the Brahmis

Sangla, 87, has a story to tell about his community. He said that their ancestors were actually from Mon Tawang, Northeastern India.


Source: Map of Bhutan


They left their hometown and settled in Trashigang, Bhutan to avoid the huge tax burden imposed on them.

“There could have been only about three households back then. People were mostly cattle herders,” he said.

Back in those days, their interaction was only with the highlanders, mostly with the Dakpas – who practised subsistence farming.

Village elders claimed that their ancestors were disconnected from the lower regions and their only human interaction was with the highlanders and mostly, the Dakpas.

With time, the Dakpas started visiting their village. They would barter butter and cheese with crops and cereals.  

During the New Year, the Dakpas would also head downhill to buy oxen. Some of them even tied marital knots and started settling in the area and soon, the traditions, culture and language of the Dakpas started spreading.

Winds of change swept through the remote community

This once remote community is now connected with road and inevitably, it has brought about many changes.

The clear evidence of the community having undergone change is that their traditional Chupa, Shingkha, Pishu, Toedung and Zhamu are now being replaced by the gho, kira (gho and kira are traditional Bhutanese costumes for men and women respectively) as well as jeans.


Photo: COMIBAM/Sepal 


Thongrong’s Tshogpa, Sangay Wangchuk said that only a few elders still don the Dakpa costume today. And, that too, is worn only during special occasions.

Only 15 to 20 percent the population, mainly the elders still communicate in their mother tongue - Dakpakha. They do not even speak or understand Tshangla, the language widely spoken in the east.

Apart from Thongrong, Brahmilo is also spoken in the other villages of Trashigang like Chaling, Tokshimang and Shongphu.

Every household had a minimum of 20 sheep back then and the community was largely self-sufficient.

With decreasing market demand, the practice of rearing sheep is waning fast. They now have to buy clothes from the districts of Merak and Sakteng due to the lack of weavers in the village.

Tashi Chophel, 58, agreed that it is a sad reality but the Dakpas can do little to save their language and culture.

“The young are increasingly leaving the village,” he lamented.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.



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