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Lalidhap – glimpse and forceful changes

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Importance of place name
The place name has a symbolic meaning and conveys the continuation of historical as well as social values. The name provides the identity of a specific community and their emotional attachment to that place that forms the part and parcel of the attribute. It is universally accepted that a place name bestows the fundamental wellbeing of the individuals and to be familiar with places and its nomenclature makes one lucid and esteemed. To know the place name means soul searching of spirit of that society. So the common understanding of the human traits is to keep the name original, consistent and permanent. The place name has the reference or the datum and that might have lost profound meaning due to multiple factors. Place name is equally important as it connotes the values of ethnic significance, evokes sense of belonging and reflects social consciousness. Therefore it’s too obvious for any people to react with discontent and sometimes with anguish when the name of a place is changed completely or altered in sound.

Some reviews
There are many theories in regard to Nepali settlement in Bhutan and each of them carries certain weight. The dynamism of migration might have initiated at the concurrent time of world exploration era that changed the perception of world geography. We have limited authentic literatures to draw conclusions as literatures coded are heavily bent to fulfill the purpose of either the author or the sponsors. The very ‘interest’ played the major role because the unwanted things are over exaggerated where the factual things are underwritten. We can develop a synergy from the postulate of Tibetan monk by name Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who escaped the Tibetan coups, came to Bhutan, established a specific dual system of rule and drew a rough delineation of Bhutan. In the process of building a strong nationhood and safeguard it, he built many forts called as ‘dzong’. Shabdrung had limited resources especially the human capital, both the semiskilled and unskilled force. Bhutan might have just about 50,000 populations during the reign of Shabdrung. Since the motive of Bhutan is to hide the real population figure we can extrapolate and get the approximate number. During that time, the world population was about 560 million and today we have about 7252 million populations. And today Bhutan has 750,000 populations and on 1600 AD, its population would be just about 50,000 by considering the same growth rate throughout this entire period. At times we need to consider the immigration factors and other vital data which may still reduce the figure. The settlement of significant number of Tibetan refugees in Bhutan during the annexation of Tibet by China and migration of ethnic Nepali from southern border contributed for the sudden jump of Bhutan’s population. There seems only the pull stigma but the push parameter was not required as the adsorption was not at the threshold at any means.

Whatever may be the size of existing population, Shabdrung was compelled to bring manpower from the neighboring nations. Nepalese arts and architecture was at its zenith during that time and he hired craftsmen, mason and other workers which was his ‘charity of choice’. And being lama himself he had high regards to the home of Lord Buddha. There was no other way to build those forts with only Bhutanese manpower.

Another chronicle throws some light that King Bahadur Shah expanded Nepal till river Tista at the east. After completing the expansion, he stationed large Nepali population usually the military families on the bank of river Tista to safeguard the eastern border. Later British East India Company and Nepal demarcated the size of that region in 1816 and the very event brought some population dynamism. Considering the bravery of Nepali soldiers the company recruited some cadres in the British regiments, some were obliged to settle in the hills while a few families crossed Tista and eventually entered Bhutan. The families that entered Bhutan made many shifting in the process of finding more durable environment that would enable them to survive from the diseases. Southern belt was very dense with malicious diseases that prevented them to remain on that part and the people kept on searching for the relatively suitable biomes. And our ancestry ultimately reached such suitably habituated places which among them is ‘Lalidhap’. Still looking deeper or considering the reality of time on growth and developmental dimensions, it was too obvious to find a natural place for making a living. One could move to whichever place was conducive for them, utilize the resources and survive from all sorts of foes.

Lalidhap Settlement
In mid 1800 some 11 Gurung families reached at a place between Samakhola and Pepingkhola and converted that place into a semi-permanent settlement. It was these people who named that settlement as Lalidhap. In Nepali taxonomy, ‘Lali’ mean Amoora Wallichii, a species of tree that grows along rhododendron in the high altitudes and serves as fodder for cattle. And ‘Dhap’ is the even land at the foot of high elevation usually the mountains. So Lalidhap was a name given to the even land at the foot of mountain with lots of Lali vegetation. And this translation provides very relevant meaning as the site lies on the lap of ‘Jhilkedara’. This very Lalidhap became the foundation of Lalidhapper village. They made the settlement between Dhodray and Darichowk.

A view of Dagna in Goshi/photo: google images
A view of Dagna in Goshi/photo: google images

Most probably this could be the first Nepali settlement in Dagapela belt, between Samakhola and Pepingkhola. The settlement site was chosen in the very strategic location, the only pass that would allow the entrance to that catchment zone. There was just one entrance way from Akaray cliff, which had been used by wild elephant movement during the winter. The Bengal wild elephants and other big animals used this region as the reserve fodder center because of its remoteness and lack of human intervention. The animal route continues along Muldara till it dissolves at Lampokhari, the source of Samakhola while the settlement site bifurcates toward the east from a place named as ‘Dhodhray’. Further north is Jutheydara range, the barren mountains with snow clads towards Chimakoti side.

The settlement site is a vast extension of untamed land, engulfed between Betenekhola towards south, Muldara on the north and Dhapperkhola on the east. Betine portion is quite steep in gradient, very marshy and wet and covered by the thick canopy of cane and wild bamboo. This region is still very much inflicted by leeches and other blood sucker parasites. Across Muldara and Dhapperkhola also has thick blanket of wild bamboo, the mixture of Kaday-malingo, Ningalo, Malingo, etc. But the settlement site was and is in the middle of very dense forest but is not covered by bamboo that facilitates the settlement. The site has abundant running streams and rivulets mainly for human use. The whole place of settlement has a very gentle slope without folds or major depressions. The weather factors were supportive even though the summer would be long and very wet.

In the initial phase, the place had the advantage for the animals rearing and that was what the Gurung family had been doing. But by the passage of time they had been more aware of self-sufficiency and began cultivating randomly. So they made a more permanent base by building houses and undertaking some patchy farming. They cultivated mainly the corns, potatoes and buckwheat. With the lack of innovation, better or place specific seeds they sow the corn on March and harvest only in November. This explains the slow but gradual process of evolution of agrarian group from a foraging state. This group had been living in a small group in complete isolation, nomadic in nature and setting its norms and values. In a discrete pattern, at-least two-three families formed a union and built the houses at one hill-lock or in the upper slope and their field used to be at the lower gradient. This very mechanism was useful to supervise the crops and also for the security reasons.

ttDagana_in_Bhutan.svg_They built houses on raised platform from rubble stone masonry but the superstructures were the wooden ones. Most of the foundations were rectangular in shape but one was round at Suparaychowk. That round structure had an altar and one could predict that this could be either their place of worship or had some religious significance in that society. Most of the houses had axed splited wooden shingles walls while some had round ones also. They didn’t use mud mortar which was very common during that time on other parts of country. Except door there were no other openings like window. Each house had a central fire place, the main source of heat to keep them warm. They built stone water spout and planted big fig trees.

This group of people gave the name of different places in their flourishing language. The name has some connections with how they are built or look, some natural objects, landmark or how they are defined. Those places name are neutral and are free from any color or race. This area was not habituated by any groups before and it was not named by any other ethnic groups. Had the place been named before they would have used the same nomenclature and would have given the continuity but the lack of human interventions compelled them to call it by a specific name. They have to identify a place irrespective of the geographical location. Except ‘Bahunchowk’- the secondary shifting place named after a cowboy who felled from the fodder tree and died there. In order to honor or remember that person, ‘Bahunchowk’ was named. This whole area is complete in setting with special or typical Nepali flavor. They lived there till the change of century and in order to find the better opportunities or fortunes they dispersed to other parts of the country while other fresh group occupied that place.

To be completed in the next series

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