The forbidden bridge in Gasa (Bhutan)

The forbidden bridge in Gasa (Bhutan) Anand Thapa
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Belief: Gasa; Bhutan:  An iron bridge near the Gasa tshachu (river) leads to a dense forest where the local deity Dendup Norzang is believed to reside.The bridge, about 100m, opens only once in three years. It is for the natives to perform rituals to appease their local deity. And for the rest of the year, the bridge remains closed, especially for outsiders.The bridge was built sometime in 2002 with a budget of about Nu 0.45M. Residents feel that their deity, in the recent past, was not pleased with them. A string of events, they said, led to the death of three men.It started in 1997, when two men died after falling boulders from a landslide hit them when sawing timber.

A few years later, another man died when felling a tree. He was believed to have cut himself with the power chain he carried.In 2007, a policeman found a shiny stone from the forest. It was offered to the dzong.( fortress, presently regional admistrative center)The following year, the valley was flooded, which washed away Gasa tshachu. The locals link the events to their deity as it occurred near that forest.Locals said the dzong must have caught fire for the same reason.

Villagers stopped going to the area and in a grand ceremony, last year, returned the stone from where it was found. Goenkhatoe gup, Pema Dorji, believes otherwise.“The previous government wanted to construct guesthouses for those visiting the tshachuin that area but the locals refused,” gup Pema Dorji said.The government then wanted to remove the bridge but locals requested it be kept for them.“Without the bridge we’ve to cut logs to build a temporary bridge and it wasn’t safe,” Pema Dorji said.

Today, the bridge is closed with corrugated galvanized sheets and covered with shrubs.“We had to close it to avoid people from crossing over to collects woods to pitch tents and firewood,” a villager, Singye Tashi said.Locals fear any disturbance could lead to predators attacking their livestock.“Even visitors to tshachu have to make offerings to the deity for a fruitful and peaceful stay,” the gup said. A new nyekhang at Sonamgang near the tshachu is under construction to perform rituals in future.

The closed bridge has left many visitors to the tshachu curious.“There’s nothing written on the bridge and I wonder why it’s closed,” a Thimphu resident Rinzin Dorji, said. “They should put up a sign board.”

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