In a world that is increasingly becoming materialistic by the day, it is rare to come across individuals devoting life to promote the well-being of others. Among the rare is a man in his late seventies from Trashi Yangtse who seems to have found his life’s calling in taking care of a sacred site in the district. 78-year-old lay-monk Dawa from Khamdang village has been working unwaveringly for more than three decades to develop a sacred site at Gongza Ney.
Barefoot, Tshampa Dawa continues to guide the visitors along the Drangmechhu, imparting the sacredness of the site to the people. He is the lone Ney Shepa or guide for the visitors.
The 78-year-old from Khamdang village has been doing this and taking care of the sacred site for more than three decades now.
Although people were aware of the sacred site way before, no one took the initiative to take care of it.
It was Tshampa Dawa who cleared the area and revived the sacred site to construct the Lhakhang in 1993.
He said “when I was at Aja Ney, people who came for pilgrimage gave me Nu 5-6. Out of sympathy, some even gave me watch and mattress. Eventually, I had gathered around Nu 30,000. And with that money, I thought about developing Gongza Ney, so that’s how I started.”
Gongza Ney is in Toedtsho Gewog located at a walking distance of around 2 hours from Dooksum town. It is believed to be a sacred place blessed by Guru Rinpoche.
Although the site is popularly known as Gongza Ney, the real name is Gungja, derived from an event in the eighth century when Khandro Yeshi Tshogyel offered ‘‘midday tea’’ or Gunja to Guru Rinpoche, while he was on his way to Subdue a demon in Gomphu Kora.
People from across the country visit the site between September and March.
Tshampa Dawa added that “in a month, more than a thousand people visit here. Sometimes we have people visiting in groups of 20 heads a day. And small groups of five to nine people come frequently after the revival of the site. Now, people also have a strong fate in our religion.”
As the site sees an increasing number of visitors, the gewog administration has provided a guesthouse, and toilet and also funded the painting works of the Lhakhang.
“I don’t have a house except for the small kitchen. When people ask where I stay, I show them my kitchen. When we don’t have many visitors, I live in one of the guest rooms but that is not convenient when there are large groups of visitors.”
As he ages, Tshampa Dawa is a bit worried but not about death. He is concerned about who will take charge of the site when he dies.