Young Pazaps dazzle Punakha Dromchoe

The annual Punakha Dromchoe ends today. What sets Punakha Dromchoe apart from other festivals in the country are the Pazaps, fearless warriors in Zhabdrung’s army. What attracts people to Punakha Dromchoe is the dramatic recreation of battles from the 17th century by the Pazaps. This year, as young men don the red and black battle attire of the Pazaps, observers of the Dromchoe are content that the tradition of Pazaps hurdling down the stairs of Punakha Dzong in victory cheers is here to stay.

At 14, Tshering Penjor is a high school boy experiencing his first year as a Pazap. Tshering used to accompany his father, who was also a Pazap, to Punakha Dzong during the Dromchoe festival.

This year, Tshering finally fulfils his dream by carrying his father’s baton and becoming a Pazap himself. The experience opened Tshering’s eyes to the role of Pazaps during Zhabdrung’s time.

Like a true warrior, he learned the songs and dances of the Pazaps from the seniors.

“I accompanied my father while he was taking part as a Pazap, last year. So, I got inspired to join the Pazaps. That time, I was also told by our gup that I would be given the opportunity this year. So, accordingly, the gup informed us about the opportunity. It is the kindness of our gup for giving me this opportunity. I will take part annually if I get the chance hereafter.”

Like Tshering Penjor, other young men from the eight western clans, known as Wang-Tshogchen-Gye, took part in the Punakha Dromchoe, some for the first time and others for the second time.

“I had the interest to join as a Pazap from my childhood. However, I could not get an opportunity, so far. But with the support of my parents and the opportunity given by our gup, I could join this year. If we need to preserve our culture for the future, we are responsible for taking up the ownership of such sacred roles from now itself,” said   Rinchen Dorji,  a pazap.

Elders, especially senior Pazaps, are happy that the tradition will live on long beyond their lifetime.

“We are planning to back out as a Pazap and give opportunity to the youth now. It is becoming difficult for the old people. Young men have now taken up our roles and with us, they are doing well. Now, they can perform by themselves even if we are not here in future,” said Gomchhen, a pazap from Barp Gewog.

“We feel confident, and I do not doubt that the tradition of Pazaps at the founding place of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal will decline. I can see that youth participation as Pazaps will only increase in the future,” said Sonam Dorji, the Dzongkhag Tshogdu Chairperson.

The three-day Punakha Dromchoe concluded with the demonstration of the disposal of Rangjung Kharsapani into the Mochhu.

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