Lhop Widows From Samtse, Bhutan Keep Their Culture Of ‘Duk Tsho Hang’ Alive

Email

There is a thriving custom among the Lhops – women are not allowed to wear ornaments after their partners die.

Lhop women from Samtse (Source: Denkarsgetaway)

 

By Rajesh Rai | Kuensel

Sangay Puda rarely smiles. The 33-year-old Lhop lost her husband three years ago, leaving her with a 10-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter.

Today, a drizzle has kept her away from her cardamom field and she has come to her uncle’s shop.

A bright pearl necklace glows under her neckline, complementing her pink top. It is the only ornament she wears.

“I have not been wearing any ornaments for the last three years,” Sangay Puda said as she opens up hesitantly to a conversation. “This is the first one.”

Who are the Lhops?

The Lhops popularly known as the ‘Doyas’ are considered the oldest aboriginal inhabitants who settled in the southwest of Bhutan. The local term ‘Lhop’ literally means southerner, a term mostly used by the people from Paro and Haa.

 

Source: Joshuaproject.net

 

Most of the Lhops are concentrated in Dorokha, Samtse district. However, their actual history and origin have remained a mystery. According to the locals, most Lhops live in the three villages of Jigme, Singye and Wangchuck.

Most Lhops depend on agriculture, livestock farming and cardamom cultivation for a living. Besides that, they also grow oranges and maize. 

Customs observed by the Lhops

There is a thriving custom among the Lhops and their community in Lhotokuchu Jigme, Lhotokuchu Singye and Lhotokuchu Wangchuck in Dorokha, Samtse – women are not allowed to wear ornaments after their partners die.

This practice of ‘refrain’ also called ‘duk-tsho-hang’ is observed for three years or nine years depending on how the spouses have died. It would be three years if the spouse had died a normal death and nine years if the partner had died from accidents and other unnatural causes.

A widow also cannot trim her hair and enter into others’ houses in the meantime. The same goes for the men. By tradition, widows and widowers are also not allowed to cut their fingernails, clip their toenails and wear slippers.

But with time, change has come to the Lhop community. They cut and clip their nails and wear slippers today.

However, remarrying is not an option—for both men and women—during the ‘duk-tsho-hang’ period. The Lhop society keeps a close eye on the widows to check and guide them if they do not stick to the renounces, some say.

 

Inside the house of a Lhop

Source: Denkarsgetaway

 

“Yes, I can remarry now but I don’t want to,” Sangay Puda said.

The Lhops hold on strongly to their traditions

The indigenous communities of Jigme, Singye and Wangchuck are known for keeping their traditional principles alive. Although modernity has touched the younger generation, the elders have held on to their traditions and the Lhops are proud of it.

Jamten Doya, 51, is among those who strongly believe in keeping their unique culture and tradition alive.

“The need for handing over their genuine ancestral tradition has become ever more important today,” he said.

“Without our own values, our children would be equivalent as orphans. It is our duty to explain them its importance.”

Jamten Doya said that he is not sure if it was fair or not to refrain them from remarrying after their spouses’ death.

“But it is a custom we have been living on and it must be respected,” he said, adding that it is also not possible to borrow others’ culture and tradition when the Lhops have their own.

“Others have their own traditional and cultural values, this is ours, so we must practice what we have.”

Sonam Tshering Doya, 48, from Lhotokuchu Jigme completed the ‘duk-tsho-hang’ some years ago after his wife passed away. He believes the tradition passed down by their forefathers has to be diligently practiced.

“It was for three years,” he said. “Lhops do not consider this practice as torment; everybody knows it.”

When the restriction period is over, the Lhops offer millet beer to the dead and some words of farewell in a small ritual.

Down the slope at Lhotokuchu Jigme, Inzang Gyemo, 50, has just taken some time out from her kitchen. She recently completed the restriction of three years.

 

A typical Lhop house

Source: Dilurai.blogspot

 

“I didn’t enter anybody’s house for three years,” she said.

Every time Inzang Gyemo sat for a meal, she brought out a plate and a mug, and prepare a meal for the deceased. This practice went on until her restriction period ended in February this year.

“This tradition has to be practised,” she said. “If we don’t, then we will bring bad luck to the family in the future.”

Inzang Gyemo said that the practice of the ‘duk-tsho-hang’ has been alive for hundreds of years. “

“People just cannot neglect it abruptly.”

The unique burial rites of the Lhops

Carrying a dead person is a herculean task in Lhop custom. Only one person is allowed to carry the dead to their tomb called ‘rombu’.

 

 

An image of a Rombu. The Lhops bury their dead family member in a stone wall with fencing and roof for protection. It is believed that their dear ones should be buried close to home. If the smell of the rot 'comes' home, it is believed to be a blessing for the family. 

Source: Asteesmemoir.blogspot

 

The Lhops do not bury or cremate the dead. The body is placed in a special wooden box, walled by specific stones and left in their fields as tombs.

A wife or a husband has to carry the dead alone to a ‘rombu’ if the deceased is their partner. If it was somebody else from the family who has died, one person will still carry it.

In 2003, a Doya man did not return home to Singye. He was on his way home from Gedu and has been missing until today. His son Namgay Tshering Doya has turned twenty two.

“My mother is still expecting him to return and has not declared him dead,” he said. “A rombu has not been raised yet.”

Namgay Tshering Doya said his mother would not accept that his father is dead without strong proof.

An ECCD facilitator at Singye, Rinchen Zangmo Doya, who has studied away from her home in Samtse, said she was proud that her people have kept the practice of ‘refrain’ alive.

“However, inter-marriages are allowed now,” she said. “I am not sure if it would continue in the future.”

Meanwhile, at Singye, the evening’s fading sunlight warms the place despite the drizzle. The cardamom fields are cleansed.

Inside her uncle’s shop, Sangay Puda is impatient. She has work to do at her cardamom field. As she dashes out of the shop, her pearl necklace glimmers in the evening sun.

 

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

 

 


Related Posts

Discover How The Lhops Of Bhutan Build A Rombu (Tomb) For The...

According to the Lhops, the tomb which is also known as the Rombu hold significant value in their lives for it connects...

Oct 28, 2018 15:53

Loss of the Brokpa Dress Culture in Bhutan

The impact of declining sheep rearing practice would lead to the loss of the brokpa dress culture, which is unique in...

Mar 28, 2018 17:57

Cordyceps Collection, Early Marriage And Other Factors Cause...

Mr Thinley Rabgay from the Laya Central School conducted a research with a sample size of 200 collected from the...

Nov 01, 2018 16:57

A Run Unlike Any Other, Get Up Close With Charming Locals And The...

The third edition of the Laya Run will take place on October 23 from Panjothong to Laya.

Oct 18, 2018 17:14

The Theme Of Bhutan’s Jhomolhari Festival 2018 - Living In...

The theme of this year’s festival 'Living in Harmony with the Ghost of High Mountains' is centred on the conservation of...

Nov 02, 2018 16:20

Study Finds Homestays And Eco-tourism Helped Preserve Bhutan’s...

The evaluation found that 98 percent of the homestays used exclusive traditional products like local food products and...

Aug 25, 2018 16:17

Latest

News

In A Bid To Reduce Consumption Of HFCs, Bhutan Ratifies Kigali Amendment To The Montreal Protocol

The Kigali Amendment requires the phasing down on the use of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Jan 18, 2019 08:24

From Bhutan To The World: Working Remotely For Foreign Firms To Open Up New Employment Opportunities

A career fair will be held in Thimphu on January 29 where one can find opportunities to work from home with industries abroad through the...

Jan 16, 2019 14:22

Features

Harnessing Bhutan’s Concept Of Gross National Happiness As Soft Power

Bhutan is a soft power in its own right.

Jan 17, 2019 07:55

Bhutan Is The First Country To Record The Life Cycle Of Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory Successfully

Over 367 days, Tshering Dendup closely observed the metamorphosis of the national butterfly, recording each change in the physical...

Jan 13, 2019 14:42

Sports

Japanese Volunteers Taught Football Skills To Some Young Monks And Hope to Reach Out To All Other Monastic Institutions In Bhutan

Held on World Children’s Day on 20 November, the programme was spearheaded by the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV).

Nov 24, 2018 06:06

Female Archer Dorji Dema Hopes To Inspire More Women To Take Up Archery In Bhutan

Dorji Dema, a mother of three is among the first women in Bhutan to play in an archery tournament.

Nov 05, 2018 08:11

Business

Housing.Bt Received Funding From An Investor Through The Jab-Chor Platform For Young Entrepreneurs In Bhutan

The Yarkay Group Private Limited supported Housing.bt with Nu 2 million.

Jan 07, 2019 13:58

Founder Of ‘Sushi’s Candles & Crafts’ Wants To Inspire More Women In Bhutan To Become Entrepreneurs

Sushanta wants to set a shining example for more women in Bhutan to fulfil their dreams of starting their own businesses.

Jan 05, 2019 15:19

Travel

Here’s What It’s Like Inside Asia’s Best Hotel - COMO Uma Punakha In Bhutan

Luxury resort COMO Uma Punakha was awarded best hotel in Asia and third best hotel in the world, by Conde Nast Traveler's Readers Choice...

Jan 18, 2019 17:05

A Tourism Office Slated To Be Established In Every District In East And Central Bhutan

Establishing a tourism office in every district will help to promote tourism across the country, said the Lyonpo.

Jan 16, 2019 08:16

Lifestyle

Bhutanese Boyband O'Strangers To Play In Pattaya For 2 Months

They are the first Bhutanese rock band to perform at Hard Rock Cafe Pattaya in Thailand.

Jan 04, 2019 15:13

Learn How Some Kids Engage Themselves Meaningfully This Winter Vacation In Bhutan

Attracting more than 200 participants, the programme attempts at making children and youth learn some skills and explore new interests.

Dec 29, 2018 10:09

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!