Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 - 9:29 AM
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Pilgrims out on a limb

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punakha19dec12Lost in Khuruthang: Lhaba and his wife were unable to find a place to pitch their tent near Chakrasamvara wang venue

Due to massive demand, leasing land to stay on is way too expensive for many visitors

Chakrasamvara Blessing: His lips dried and wrinkled face filled with dust, Ap Lhaba, 63, his wife and their 10-year-old daughter were waiting the whole day in Khuruthang town yesterday, literally lost, and wondering where to camp for the Chakrasamvara (Dechhog Khorlo Dompai wang) blessing that begins in Punakha tomorrow.

“It’s our first time here, and we don’t know where to go,” Ap Lhaba said. “We couldn’t afford to hire a patch of land in Changyul, as the owner charged us Nu 3,000,” his wife Singye Wangmo added.

In the morning, Singye Wangmo, 48, had gone twice to Changyul to look for a vacant paddy field, on which they could pitch a tent that they had carried from their village in Chapcha in Chukha.  But the rates were the same everywhere. “If we spend such amount on lease, then we’ll have no money left for food,” Singye said.

In the last couple of weeks, charges to hire land in Punakha have been skyrocketing with increasing demand.  For the size of a tent, which can accommodate around four to five people, landowners charged Nu 3,000 to Nu 10,000.

Desperate, Singye Wangmo had also tried to camp by the Mochu river bank. “But police chased me out,” said Singye.  The family’s last hope was either to request an old man from Bjimithang to share his house or to camp out in the open.

The old man, who lives about an hour’s walk from Khuruthang, had provided the family with food and shelter when they arrived in Punakha on Monday night.  The family has carried ration, bedding and a filled LPG cylinder with them.

Like Ap Lhaba’s family, scores of devotees could not get the land on hire, as the charges were either high, or land was unavailable nearby Thangzona, where the wang will be held.

One of them was a monk, Rinzin, from Thimphu.  He said he could not find a place to pitch a tent that was to be shared among his friends. “All makeshifts were booked by the time we knew,” Rinzin, 52, said. “If we don’t get an empty place, we’ll try to accommodate with people we know.”

Almost all makeshifts built in Changyul and Zomlithang booked full.  There are more than 600 sheds, made of CGI sheets and tarpaulin, and 109 CGI sheds in Zomlithang, all built by private companies.  More than 1,000 individual sheds have also been built.

Wang committee officials said the devotees would have to find their own accommodation, as they take care of only the wangkhang, where the devotees would sit and receive blessings.

Except for some final touches, like wiring kilkhor, polishing the floor and arranging planks of the wangkhang, major preparatory work is now completed.  Dzongdag Kuenzang N Tshering said work was completed on time, because of hard work put in by 200 army personnel, who worked daily at the site, and cooperation rendered by other agencies.

By Tenzin Namgyel, Punakha

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