July 27, 2009

Our young trees

Death has a wonderful bond in a Bhutanese life considering the way we treat the deceased in the period of one year from the death of a person. Not until one of my family members very close to me expired did I actually realize the different practices endowed by our ancestors to us to appease the dead. Call me a man poisoned by whims of science and unfaithful to one’s age old custom but I was deeply saddened by what I had to do yesterday; erecting prayer flags.

We believe that 108 prayer flags have to be erected in the name of the dead within fourteen days of his/her death. Hence, to keep up with that belief we rushed to the jungles above Hongtsho to cut trees, precisely 108 of them. Prayers flags demand erect and straight poles and finding such trees are quite hard. They should not be very big also, which mean younger trees (10 to 15 years) have to be cut down. So we have to move deeper into the jungle and stretch far and wide to get neither 1 or 2 nor 5 or 10 but 108 young trees.

Permission was of course granted by the concerned department and the trees cut were done solely for erecting prayer flags. Yet it pained me deeply that such young trees have to be cut down. Just imagine how many people die each year and how many trees have to be felled in their names. We run the risk of rendering our country barren. Not to mention we also cut older trees, both hard wood and soft while cremating.

If at all given the choice (and we have the right to make one) incinerator sounds preferable. An ingenious way to erect prayer flags sans the trees may need to be developed as well. I am not very sure I will think differently of it as I age and really begin to understand the magic of my tradition and culture brought down to us, but as of now I am petrified!


  1. Same Issue bothers me even. I have another bad experience about the way our culture takes death...well may be I should pick up my pen and write about it!

  2. You could be right is all I can think of right now. But you could also be displeasing the spirit of the dead or the living oldies who are proud to pass down their age old tradition. Let me know what you plan to do about it though ;)

  3. :) Looking forward to it PaSSu... I enjoy your articles but could not get in your blog of late.

    Anon I am thinking keeping a will saying the concerned members do not get my humble wealth unless I am put in an Incinerator. As for the prayer flags, I saw an interesting method adopted by a responsible citizen. All he/they had done was tie two ropes(at a vertical prayer-flag distance) between two trees and then attached the prayer flags. And hey presto, no trees had to be cut, yet the prayer flags are fluttering majestically. You can see that at Wangdue-tse. I would dig something like that. But ofcourse, I need to age up a bit, and get a lil wiser.

    Just my thought you see, erecting prayers flags the traditional way otherwise do not seem to go along well with the concept of GNH, since conservation of environment is one of its stout pillars.