Brief History of Garab Wangchuk- Local Deity of Trongsa and Trashigang
Continuing on the history of local deities, I have today Garab Wangchuk. He is revered and feared in Trongsa and Trashigang as much as Phola Mansang Chungdud in Haa and Jomo and Dangling in Merak, Sakteng and Khaling.
The history of Garab Wangchuk dates back to the days of Buddha himself. When Buddha was about to gain enlightenment, he faced great many obstructors. Out of these obstructors, there were four chief obstructers, referred as Maras. Each was further supported by some twenty thousand smaller obstructers….what I call as Mini Obstructors (it sounds like instructors!). Altogether, there were some eighty thousand types of obstructers. These army of obstructors attacked Buddha in many ways. Some splashed rain, while others created storms and flashfloods, earthquakes, meteors and lightening. They also caused as many as eighty thousand types of diseases and disturbing emotions. Yet, Buddha overcame all these obstructers and got enlightened.
The chief of all these obstructers was called Garab Wangchuk, the “Lord of Pleasure.” He is believed to be a brother of Terdag and Pangrizampa. He resided in one of the divine palace and looked down from there. He had the power to see all kinds of realm from his palace as if he was looking at his own palm. Garab Wangchuk could not bear to see anyone slipping away from worldly suffering and getting liberation or enlightenment.
The other story relates to the origination of tobacco and tobacco products. According to Buddhist belief, smoking or chewing any kinds of tobacco products causes negative influence in the society and also obstructs one’s spiritual development, and clouds mental clarity in meditation. It also clogs mental channels and one will lose focus at the time of death.
It explains how Garab Wangchuk, jealous of Buddha’s achievement tried to harm Buddha but failed. So he wished him the worst. It is believed that a menstrual blood of a demoness dropped on the ground turned into tobacco plant. Being evil herself, the plant that grew from her blood produced evil energy grown out of the evil wishes of the Demon Kings. So, tobacco is considered as anti-buddhist plant like we have satan in muslim and judas in Christian.
This age we live in is believed to be degenerated because people find it fashionable to smoke, snuff and chew tobacco which neither satiate hunger nor thirst and do not benefit anyone including the one who smokes (writer included!!!) or chews. And this addiction is costs lives.
Garab Wangchuk was also assisted by his five queens who injected the poisons of attachment, pride, anger, jealousy and stupidity. Each of these queens took turns to observe the world day in and day out with their evil eyes. They constantly searched for people who were about to get liberation and started creating obstructions.
Garab Wangchuk influenced devout Buddhist practitioners to postpone meditations by making them feel dull, distracted and agitated when practicing. He sometimes also injected poison of doubts and made superfluous plans during the meditation sessions. Practitioners who were susceptible or vulnerable to obstacles were the most affected. However, when it came to non- religious activities like gambling, one could stay for the whole night and made them people lose huge amount of money and stakes. This is believed to be all because of Garab Wangchuk.
Garab Wangchuk had a daughter called Tramen Sengdongma. She enjoyed taking lives. She had taken the lives of countless beings and like her father, she also harmed practitioners by increasing the negative forces in the world and undermining the Buddha’s doctrine. So it is being said that, all the enlightened ones gathered together and decided to tame her. So, they created a being which looked identical to Tramen Sengdongma. Since the created image was blessed and empowered by the enlightened ones, it had the collected wisdom. Also, it became so powerful that Tramen Sengdongma was forced to submit in defeat. Thus, she was subdued. She took an oath to serve the Buddha doctrine and became a protector.
When the created image was in deep meditation, countless dakinis emanated from her body and these dakinis tamed all the other evil spirits including Garab Wangchuk.
Not much is known about how he became the deity of Trongsa but it is believed that he still is very powerful in the region.
He is also believed to be the guardian deity of Trashigang. It is suspected that Chogyel Minjur Tenpa who was the first Trongsa Penlop and also the builder of Trashigang Dzong had installed him as the deity of Trashigang. It is being said that there is a huge cave below the Dzong in Trashigang where he lives there in the form of serpent. He is appeased every day with offerings.
One folk legend relates to a sorcerer being presented to Garab Wangchuk by the people to see whether the person actually had black magic and affected them. It was believed that if the person was innocent, Garab Wangchuk did not do anything and let the person go out but if one possessed black magic, one would die in his presence. The sorcerer died vomiting blood.
He was also invoked during wars where he made the enemies lose vision or made them see frightening things. He could take any form he liked.
He is known to have personally visited Jangchub Tshongru, the tsawai lama of Jigme Namgyel in the form of handsome young man and offered Khadar before requesting him to come to Trongsa so as to avoid problems and misunderstandings between Lama Jangchug Tshongru and Jigme Namgyel.