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Chundu, Thief of the Fire

A story gladly told shows, on the one hand, the almost human character of these former pre-Buddhist deities. On the other hand, this again shows clearly the kind relationship the »holy men« of Buddhism have to these deities.

Chundu is the protective deity of the Ha provice in western Bhutan. He was a preferred soldier of the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. One day, the Shabdrung ordered his servants Chundu and Ap Genyen (the present deity of Thimphu) to go into the land of the demons, in order to fetch fire for him there. Through his cleverness, Chundu succeeded in stealing the fire.

On his way back, he met people who gave food and alcoholic drinks to him as an offering. After a substantial feast Chundu fell asleep. Ap Genyen stole the fire from him and brought it to the Lama. As Ngawang Nyamgel found out about Chundu's carelessness, he struck him and banished him to Ha.

However, after the Shabdrung had found out the actual details of the story, he arranged for his faithful soldier to receive regular prayers of worship by the inhabitants of Ha.

The Quarrel over the Water

Another story about Chundu explains why in Ha no wet rice can be grown. Jichu Drakye, the protective deity of Paro, one day re-routed the water, which had originally watered the valley of Ha, to Paro. As Chundu realized this, he brought the flow of the water to a halt.

However, before the quarrel that now broke out between the two gods escalated, they had worked out a compromise: the water should flow again, under the condition that Chundu receive the first rice from the harvests in Paro as sacrificial offerings. He still receives them today.

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Bronze, painted; height 28 centimeters; 17th century; on loan from the National Museum of Paro  
About the founder of the Bhutanese state, stories are also told in which he conquers demons and nature gods.


Ap Genyen, the protective deity of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.