The history of Bhutan | Bhutan before unification | Until the establishment of the state | Central Bhutan | The Dung families

The Dung families

Various stories are told about the origins of the Dung* noble families. In the main points, however, they all agree: The first rulers of Bumthang descended directly from the gods. Their successors, usually no blood relations, established the ancestry of the Dung families.

The legend of the village of Ura

When king Chikharathö of Bumthang died, he did not leave any successor. His subordinates started to quarrel and, finally, decided to look for a new king. They prayed to their god, who sent his son into the body of one of the village women. At his birth he was given the name Lhagon Pelchen. A few years later he became their ruler and was succeeded by his son and his grandson. The grandson, however, remained childless. He explained to his subordinates that, after his death, they should go to central Tibet where they should throw some fruit from the Mön region amongst a group of children. The child collecting most of the fruit would be his reincarnation.

The emissaries should take that child with them to Bumthang. These orders were complied with and the boy, hidden in a bag of yak-hair, was taken to Ura. He got the name Lhawang Dragpa and became their ruler.

One day the interest awakened in him to learn more about his descent and so he sent messengers to central Tibet. They were told that the child who had been stolen in a raid many years ago was a descendant of King Langdarma's son Ösung. The emissaries returned happily to Bumthang as it was now proven that their ruler was of royal blood. Lhawang Dragpa got married to a daughter of a noble family and that marriage produced the Dung families.


The legend of the village of Zhongar

A young woman was on her way to get married to the King of Dungsamkha. On the way she a spent a night on the shore of Lake Mukulung Thso. While she was sleeping, the mightiest of the local deities, son of the god of heaven, creeped into her body in the shape of a white snake. At her arrival in Dungsamkha the young woman gave birth to a son.

When the boy was a bit older, he learned who his father was, but was then killed by his father's enemy, a water snake (lu*). Because his brain was eaten by a fish, the boy changed into a fish. He was caught in the net of a man who let the fish live because he spoke a human language. While the man was busy outside the house, the fish would change into a child and did the domestic chores, since there was no woman in the house. One day the man discovered this transformation and threw the shed fish skin into the fire, which destroyed it.

As the son of a deity, the boy was stronger than normal people. For that reason he was made into the supreme warlord of the region and brought Ura and Zhongar under his power. One day he ordered to have the tip of a mountain removed so that he could see further into the distance. His subordinates were incensed by the arrogance of their ruler and killed him. Before he died, he announced that he would be re-born in central Tibet. He instructed his subordinates to look for him there and to take cowry shells with them. The child who collected most of these cowry shells would be his reincarnation. Everything came true as he had announced it, and the boy who was taken back from Tibet was given the name Lhawang Dragpa. He is regarded as the progenitor of an important Dung lineage.

The history of Bhutan
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.  .  Bhutans early history
.  .  First Buddhist temples
.  .  Until the establishme ..
.  .  .  Central Bhutan
.  .  .  .  The Dung families
.  .  .  .  Feud of the schools
.  .  .  Eastern Bhutan
.  .  .  Western Bhutan
.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  The monarchy
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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The village of Ura is one of the few cluster villages of central Bhutan. Since the Bhutanese middle ages it has been an important political centre.
Photo by Jon Warren