Monpas of Chaling
Many of you must have studied Khandro Drowa Zangmo in school days. I am sure. And many must have watched the Bhutanese film by the same name based on the historical epic. Towards the end of the epic of Khandro Drowa Zangmo, there appears a place by the name of Yue Pemachan, where the young prince Kuntu Lekpa rules the village as a compassionate and Buddhism-loving king. This historic place is identified to be the present day Chaling village in Trashigang dzongkhag.
The only Pemachen monument that stood the test of time is in the form of a Chorten. People believe that the chorten was constructed by King Kuntu Lekpa himself. At proper Pemachen, there are said to be seen vast ruins of stone structures buried underneath the soil. Villagers believe it to be the ruins of the palace of Kuntu Lekpa. There were many instances when villagers dug the soil for construction and they came across huge rows of stone walls buried deep in soil. Recently they also discovered many stone slates with ‘Ommani Padme Hum’ carvings on them. Precious stones like ‘Dzi’ were unearthed by farmers while working in their fields not so long ago.
Village elders recollect their grandparents telling them that when they had first entered the village, it was full of thick vegetation and wild animals. They cleared the jungle for cultivation of crops. This act of clearing vast area of jungle for agriculture is called ‘Kya-laeng’ in the local language. The current name of the village ‘Chaling’ is derived from this word of ‘Kya-laeng’. The probability is that the modern day inhabitants of Chaling are not the direct descendents of the ancient people of Yue-Pemachen. They migrated later and settled in it giving the place a change in name in the form of Chaling. There is no sufficient evidence to show that present day inhabitants are the direct descendents of the ancient subjects of King Kuntu Lekpa. On the other hand, there are ample of evidences which confirm that modern dwellers of Chaling are originally from Mon Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Even today many people of Chaling have living relatives in Mon Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.
Many people have come to believe that Brokpa inhabitants of Merak and Sakteng to be same as Dakpas of Chaling. But this is not true. Though there is some similarity in certain levels of culture, Dakpas speak a different language called Mon-ked. Mon-ked or Dakpakha is one among the twenty different languages spoken in Bhutan. The legend of Khandro Drowa Zangmo is almost forgotten in the village with time. The epic legend is very much a part of the culture of Monpas (Dakpas) who inhabit the village. This legend is closely associated with the identity of the people Chaling. There is good potential for cultural tourism in the village, given its rich historical background.