Merak and Sakteng are two very unique tribal communities in the highlands of northeastern Bhutan under Trashigang district.
While the close ridges of Merak bear resemblance to the landscape of Haa, Sakteng’s open glades reminded me of Ura. Although the main settlements form a similar cluster as that of Merak, the valley is more open here.
Did you know that “Sakteng” stands for the land of Bamboos? Located at almost 2000 ms lower than Merak, the forests in this valley are filled with bamboo groves. While there are a different group of Brokpas that live in the higher altitude community of Merak, the Brokpas of Sakteng chose to live in a slightly lower altitude.
I’m told that there’s a place in Sakteng that tells the story of the history of the people here in a way even most Bhutanese have never seen. “Come I’ll show you,” ushers kota Sangay, our local guide in Sakteng.
Jomo Doksa Temple
Kota Sangay led us to a small temple near the road leading you into Sakteng village. The old temple is known as the Jomo Doksa Lhakhang. It resembles any old temple in any other part of Bhutan but it is what’s inside that really sets Jomo Doksa temple apart.
The temple has the most unique mural on one side of the interior wall. This mural tells the entire story of the people of these highlands.
A Mural Tells a Story
Eons ago, there lived a tyrant king in Tshona, Tibet who tormented his people during his reign. One day he ordered the Brokpas to remove the head of a mountain as it was blocking the sun’s rays from falling on his palace. Even after toiling day and night, the Brokpas couldn’t even remove a small tip of the mountain. This was when Aum Jomo conspired with the people to put an end to the King’s tyranny by killing him. It was after this incident that She led the Brokpas to the south and into Bhutan where they finally found their home. When the Brokpas came here from Tshona led by Aum Jomo, the ones who couldn’t travel to Merak’s higher altitude chose to settle here. You’ll find the entire story in a beautiful artwork on this wall.
Getting this special glimpse of the history of the Brokpas beautifully documented in the mural was one of the most fascinating story-telling experiences I have ever had. This is why we travel – to find tales like this, and to find them in this way made me speechless.
Jomo Doksa Lhakhang also has a sacred statue of Aum Jomo in her wrathful from that is hidden behind Khadars. “Women are not allowed to see it,” Koenyer Chhunku told me and ushered me outside as the team prepared to get a glimpse.
Besides that I found this visit to be the highlight of my trip here.
P.s you’ll also find two trees near the temple that are believed to have spurn from Aum Jomo and Lam Jaropa’s walking sticks.
For more details watch my travelogue video