Approximately 900 years ago, there lived three highly reputed and learned Buddhist teachers in the Zora Khatap Gompa. They were Lama Zora Thamchen Khempa, Drokun Rinpoche and Lama Mitri. Zora Khatap Gompa was in the Zora village of Tibet.
During this time, Buddhism was slowly and steadily spreading into the nearby regions of Tibet in the Himalayas. The lamas travelled to different places to spread the message of Buddhism. Similar was the case of Zora Khatap Gompa. The three lamas had to decide who would embark in which direction to preach their religion. As the legend go, a decision was taken based on a draw of lot. And soon, the three lamas commenced on their respective journeys in different direction.
Drokun Rinpoche, also known as Doang Rinpoche, travelled towards what is today known as Dirang in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. During this time, it was Doang Rinpoche’s tenth birth. Although he didn’t want to travel to the place he was assigned, he followed the collective decision and started his onward journey. From Tibet, he voyaged towards Dirang crossing Tawang in the Eastern Himalayas.
‘Bon’ one of the oldest faith of Tibet was then the predominant religion of the Monpa community living in this western part of Arunachal Pradesh. They were closely associated with the environment and worshipped their divinities. But most of the time, they offered prayers to their deities and spirits by animal sacrifice. When Doang Rinpoche reached Sela from Tibet he could see blood all over Dirang valley. Locals believe that it was the result of the incessant animal sacrifice which was undertaken during the time. Doang Rinpoche was highly disturbed by the numerous birds and animals which were killed in the name of religion.
“When Doang Rinpoche reached Sela from Tibet he could see blood all over Dirang valley. Locals believe that it was the result of the incessant animal sacrifice which was undertaken during the time. Doang Rinpoche was highly disturbed by the numerous birds and animals which were killed in the name of religion”
After a few days Doang Rinpoche finally reached what is now known as Dirang. During that time, Dirang village comprised of continuous patch of lush green mountains with very less population. Besides the animal sacrifices there was another factor which lead to the numerous killings in the area. It was the story of a powerful snake who lived in a lake inside a forest in the current Dirang village.
Inside the forest, the law of the snake prevailed. He could take different forms including humans whenever he liked. The snake also killed people as per his wish. The locals feared travelling through the forest. Even the birds and animals were not spared by him.
Doang Rinpoche got to know about the snake when he reached Dirang village. He urged the snake to stop his cruelty but in vain. Despite many warning, the snake continued its wrath and did not take Doang Rinpoche’s order seriously. Doang Rinpoche had to kill the snake. He took out his heart and kept it inside the Lama Juthi Gompa. The gompa was built at the same place where the snake is believed to have lived. As per the legend, after the death of the snake the lake dried up. It was then that the Lama Juthi Gompa was created by Doang Rinpoche. In Monpa language, ‘Juthi’ means the chair where a Rinpoche sits. It is believed that since then Doang Rinpoche is always present in the Lama Juthi Gompa. A rock surrounded by a small stagnant water body remains near the gompa and is thought to be a part of the snake. As per the locals, the heart of the snake is placed inside the gompa.
Doang Rinpoche not only killed the cruel snake but also preached the teachings of non-violence in the region. Today, Buddhism is the predominant religion in Dirang. In fact, Dirang basti is one of the very few villages that has banned killing of animals for any religious purpose. It is also illegal to kill any animals inside the village to be consumed as food. Meat products can however be brought inside the village for selling and consumption. The Mon Dirang Animal and Forest Protection Society is an organisation actively working in this regard in the village since the 2015.
The above narrative has been written with inputs from Tsewang Leiki Kheo Rinpoche of Lieong Monastery and Mrs. Sang Nima of Dirag Basti – an active member of Mon Dirang Forest and Animal Protection Society.