The Magical Waters Of Gasa Tsachu – A Popular Hot Spring In Bhutan

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While most people visit the hot spring in the hope that it could cure them of various ailments, it has become an annual visit for many to relax.

Gasa tsachu (Source: My Bhutan)

 

By Tashi DemaKuensel

A small gorge on the right bank of the Mochu river in Gasa remains shrouded in myth, belief, mystery and hope.

Popularly known as the Gasa tsachu (hot spring), the small flat land hidden at the base of the slope where the towering Gasa Tashithongmoen dzong stands, provides a temporary home for thousands every winter and spring.

On the other side of the tsachu is the abode of the local deity Dendup Norzang.

While most people visit the hot spring in the hope that it could cure them of various ailments, it has become an annual visit for many to relax.

More than 5,000 people visit the tsachu every year. Just last week, there are about 250 people soaking in the ponds of the hot spring.

 

Photo: My Bhutan

 

According to the tsachu manager, Tandin Dorji, the peak season is during the winter months of December and January.

“But one or two families keep visiting the tsachu even during the lean season in the summer.”

The place is steep in mysticism. Located close to the banks of the river inside a dense forest resides the local deity, Dendup Norzang.

The deity of Gasa tsachu

No tsachu visitors dare to cross the river although there is a suspension bridge. According to the locals, the deity becomes wrathful when disturbed or defiled.

Most people visit the monastery which was constructed as the residence of the deity Dendup Norzang, below the residential complex of the tsachu to appease the deity.

Bago Dem, 65, from Yemina shared tales of how people had lost their lives while trying to collect forest products from the area which is considered to be the deity’s residence. 

Everyone soaking in the pond listened to her stories in awe and fear.

 

Photo: My Bhutan

 

“That’s why everyone visiting the tsachu makes offering to the deity for protection during their stay here,” she said.

Those who are superstitious would actually consult an astrologer on whether they could visit the tsachu. For instance, those born in the year of the Sheep, Rabbit and Pig are discouraged from visiting the hot spring this year.

Local residents say that the Dendup Norzang was a demon until the founder of the tsachu, Dupthob Therkhungpa subdued him and converted him to a dharma protector in 13th Century.

The curative properties of the Gasa tsachu

They believe that the tsachu has curative effects since the Dupthob has blessed it with 128 varieties of medicines.

“Our parents told us that even the Zhabdrung Rinpoche has blessed the tsachu while on a visit to Bhutan from Tibet,” said an elderly resident, Pem, 75.

People had been visiting the tsachu for ages. Bago Dem recalls how her mother brought her and her siblings to the tsachu whenever they had time and whenever someone in the family fell sick.

“We didn’t have proper clothes to wear and would always walk barefooted,” she said.

“We brought buckwheat pancakes and millet doughs as packed lunch.”

She said that as a young girl growing up near the Gasa dzong, she and her friends would go to the Gasa tsachu whenever they had some meat, eggs and butter.

“We would come here and soak in the hot spring and feast on whatever we collected later.”

She also recounted the numerous times that she has contributed labour to restore the tsachu whenever natural disasters, especially floods damaged the ponds.

For many visitors, the menchus (medicinal waters) around the tsachu is the main attraction. While the four tsachu sources, which are now connected to seven ponds, are believed to cure tuberculosis, joint pains, stomach ailments and metal poisonings, there is an area identified to cure sinusitis.

A 42-year-old man from Jabana said that he has been visiting the tsachu for the last 11 years to cure his sinusitis and allergy.

“While my sinusitis couldn’t be cured completely, it has helped in curing my headaches.”

Bidha from Dagana said that this is her fourth visit to the tsachu. She hopes to cure her sinusitis. 

“It has helped a lot.”

The area identified to cure sinusitis is about a five minutes uphill walk from the main tsachu ponds.

Local residents say that people dug into a hole and inhaled the gas with pungent odour, which many believed could cure sinusitis.

 

Photo: Kuensel

 

The holes have now been plugged but plastic bottles and pipes have been fitted into the slope from where the pungent odour blows.

Pema from Gongthung in Trashigang said that inhaling the pungent smell has helped him to cure his nasal blocks.

He said that he has made it a point to visit the tsachu every year and he would stay more than a week.

Health officials explained that it was the sulphur that people were inhaling and it helped in opening up the nasal cavities.

There are many stories of how people actually blacked out and suffered from shortness of breath while inhaling the sulphur, which health officials say is due to the lack of oxygen.

There are also other menchus (water with medicinal properties) like the Jagay Menchu and Tokey Menchu, which are believed to cure gastritis and headaches.

Dorji, 73, from Merak said that she visited the tsachu with the hope of curing of her stomach ailments. She was there for a week.

She explained that the best time to visit the hot spring is in spring, as it is the time when the flowers start budding.

Every year, thousands return from the tsachu hoping that it will produce wonders that science could not.

Pasang Lham, 65, from Zomina said that the local people visit the tsachu every time they fall sick.

“I am here to heal the wounds of a dog bite,” she said. 

“I went to the hospital and got vaccinated. The hot spring will heal my wounds faster.”

  

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


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