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Tribute to Abi Jomo and Meme Dangling

While Ama Jomo is a guardian deity of Merak, Sakten and some places in Arunachal Pradesh, Meme Dangling is a popular deity in Khaling and along ancient route to Dung Sum.
Ama Jomo’s story share many similarity with stories of Zhongar Dzongpon, Tongphu Gyalpo and Dzongpon of Wangditse (as written by Kinga Choden in one of the Drukpa Magazines). Nevertheless, the story would be incomplete without being said what I heard.
It is being said that a place called Kumley Ruksum in Tibet was ruled by a king called Ponpo Yizang. Ponpo Yizang had ordered his subjects to flatten the mountain that was blocking sunrays to his palace. Leaving their own works aside, people toiled in vain for several months and years but to no avail.
One day when people were working, they heard a melodious song which said that it would be better and easier to bring down the mighty king than bringing down the mighty mountain. Some workers who understood the meaning of the song were inspired by it. They killed Ponpo Yizang at a place called Tshona which is still known by that name in Tibet. The singer was later found to be Amo Jomo Kukhar who is popularly known as Abi Jomo among sharchop speaking populations, the guardian deity of the Merak and sakteng people.
Some loyal followers of Ponpo Yizang wanted to avenge his death. However, before they could do so, Abi Jomo, accompanied by Lam Jarappa and her brother Dangling escaped into Bhutan. They brought along yaks, treasures, food and everything they required. Many people came with her.
Upon arrival in Bhutan, Amo Jomo knew that they could not be pursued. Since they could not go back, she decided that the people be quickly settled. However, she could not keep all the people in one place because there was not enough pastoral land for yaks and cattle. So, she divided the people into three groups.
The first group, named Sharpa Dengze (Eastern group) were asked to settle at Sakteng near a place called Domego Mirtsheng in Arunachal Pradesh. Two other groups, Lhopa Dengze (Southern group) and Nuppa Dengze (Western group) were asked to settle at Lung Zempo but they were later moved to Sakteng and further to Merak. The ruins of stone houses at Lung Zempo are still existing.
However, due to harsh geographical conditions only few were able arrive at Merak. Many died on the way. The migration was led by Abi Jomo herself and Lam Jarapa.
Upon arriving at Merak, they had to clear forest for settlement. The place was named Methra, or settlement after clearing and burning. The word Merak is a corruption of the word Methra. Sakteng, however, means the ‘plains of bamboos”. Sakteng had huge bamboo forest when people arrived from tibet. Brokpas are quite skillful in making bamboo fences and mats. In winter, we can see a lot of them weaving bamboo mats on the roadside in and around Khaling and Kharungla areas.
Later, the need for pastures and agricultural land forced many brokpas to move south. It was also convenient for people to barter food and other essentials during winter especially with the people in the south.
Many Brokpas of Sakteng later settled down in places like Borangtse, Borangmang, Tengmang, Pusa, Thakthri and Manidunjur, Murphey, Jongkhar and Tholong.
In Merak, the first phase of settlement took place around Merak and Gengor later spreading out to the lower regions of Khiliphu and Chaling.
Given a very long history, the role of the deity Abi Jomo is indispensable whether it is tradition, culture, lives and economy of brokpas. The brokpas believe that Amo Jomo had saved them from tyranny and would continue to protect them as long as there is a brokpa community.
Similarly, her brother is also considered as a guardian deity of Khaling and the villages falling along ancient route to southern foothills. History of Khaling would be incomplete without the history of Meme Dangling. It is being said that Meme Dangling used to reside in Dungsum and Assam areas prior to settling down at Dangling Tsho permanently. However, he spent his winter months in warmer areas in the southern foothills. Usually the migration begins around 11th month of the Bhutanese calendar and end around the 2nd month of the succeeding year. During these period no one is allowed to go to Dangling Tsho. It is called Ladham. One story speaks of a traveler camping for a night in present day Dangling Tsho area. There was nothing then. In the night, he dreamt that someone was asking him to move to some other area and sleep but he refused and warned the person not to disturb his sleep. While waking up in the morning, he tried to make sense of his dream. As he got up, he was surrounded by a lake with a small area of his night rest being left untouched. Meme Dangling had found his new home. However, Meme Dangling still continued to travel to southern foothill during Winter and return during second month of the succeeding year. People of Khaling believe that Dangling would have returned once the ice sheet in Dangling Tsho starts to melt. During this time, people get together and make offerings to welcome back Meme Dangling from his Winter migration. They renew their request to provide protection, wealth, cattle and happiness. Stone oven where Meme Dangling and his retinues cooked while migrating back and forth can still be seen near Dawzor in Khaling. The trees where they tied their mount, unfortunately was washed away by flood few years ago. During frequent migration during Winter, Dangling Tsho is known to have fathered many children from local women in the places he visited.. Merung, who is a local deity of Bangtar is one of Dangling’s children. Similarly, there were many women whom Dangling made them pregnant miraculously. One such story relates to a woman who had slept near Dangling Tsho while travelling. Later she learnt that she had been impregnated by Dangling. A very handsome child was born to the woman. However, people refused to allow their children to play with Dangling’s child. When he grew up into a young man later, he went to trade to India. On the way, he had to cross a lake. It is being said that the deities of that lake refused to allow him to cross the lake because he was Dangling’s son. The son returned home and demanded to know his father. She advised him to go near Dangling Tsho and call him. Dangling Tsho was then in Dungsum when this story happened. As advised by his mother, he went near the lake and called out his father’s name. As he did that, a huge tide formed from the lake and there appeared a handsome man who looked very happy to meet his son. The son told his father of the refusal of the lake deity to allow him to cross lake and travel to India. Dangling gave him three bamboo containers with a lid and advised him not to open until he reached the lake. However, he became curios and opened one of them. Out came snakes of all sizes. He then immediately closed the lids and took them near the lake. Once he reached there, he opened them and out came all the snakes and reptiles. These snakes and reptiles swallowed all the water of the lake and from the bottom of the lake appeared another snake which bit him. If Dangling’s son had not opened the bamboo container on the way, he wouldn’t have died. However, being the son of a deity himself, his soul was transferred to a fish and continued to travel along the downstream. He was later caught by a fisherman who, instead of killing, kept him in a pond. The fish, during the day time, when no one was at home cooked for fisherman. This aroused fisherman’s curiosity. One day, the fisherman pretended to go to forest but hid himself near his house. When he saw his fish shedding its skin and turning into a handsome youngman, the fisherman did not waste time. He immediately threw the fish skin into the fire and destroyed it. Then he adopted the youngman as his son. The young man is known to have ruled that land later.
This story shares similarity with stories of Chali Mansang and Pel Thongley of Dungsum.
One story relates to Meme Dangling trying to level Kharungla hill because it was obstructing the sub rays from reaching him at Dangling Tsho. As he picked up a stone and aimed at the hill to destroy it, Abi Jomo tickled him playfully in his armpit. Meme Dangling is said to have slipped and fallen down. The stone landed at Khaling Dawzor instead of Kharungla. The stone, which people gleefully call as Meme Dangling’s Deygor, is longer than two men’s arms in diameter.
One spectacular view to marvel at Dangling Tsho is the presence of two birds who sweeps all the twigs and leaves falling on the lake from the trees nearby. The lake remains clean throughout the year.
People visiting the lake are forbidden to take meat, fishes, onions and garlic. Should they do that, they invite calamity of windstorms and unprecedented rain which destroys crops at Khaling and adjoining areas. The locals take it as community offense for making their deity angry.


Sally Warner Thombron said…

I wish this story had come out at least a year ago. Last year when I came as a tourist, I hiked to Dangling Tsho and spent sometime there. It was such a beautiful place. My guide could not tell me its story so I asked some people on the way but due to language problem, I was not able to understand. unfortunately, my guide was from Paro and he spoke less sharchop. I tried looking for stories related to this lake but could not find one. I work Francoise Travel magazine based in Madrid and Paris. Its just about a year old now. If you are interested, I can list this story for my magazine. It is a monthly magazine, published in French, Spanish and English. I have some pictures of the lake which can go with the magazine. Next issue is due in May. You can give a try.

Sally Thombron
tshering said…
Thanks sally. It is quite inspiring. If it has to go for publication, I would like to go over it again. I think there still is some time.

Sally Warner Thombron said…
Sure.I will email you soon.
suman said…
this piece on abi jhomo is really intresting and helpful. i am a teacher here in the rangjung LSS and along with my freinds, i took some of my club members for a short trip to abi jhomo's is very near to our school and very few people know about it....our school care taker had some information about the nay . so we had requested him to take us there and explain...but the information was very less....i was curious and goggled ...out came your piece...thank you so i can atleast share with my club members and also the staff.....but we still need to fill up many missing blanks.
I on behave of khaling community i like to thank MR sally for giving information about Dangling Tsho.
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Anonymous said…
Thank you Mr. Tshering four your wonderful job You hae touched upon all aspects of Merak and Sakteng. However, there are some points and name of the places demanding some changes! (I am from Sakteng
I would appreciate if you could correct me. This was just a casual research so it certainly requires help from resourceful people. Thank you so much and please do send me the changes required. Maybe you can add your points to this research and send me a copy. I will post it here okies.
Anonymous said…
Any update or republication of the article? What about Tsongtsongma?
Anonymous said…
Bad grammar.
Unknown said…
Hmm...I don't really belive in this stuff but this story is quiet intresting...:)

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