To Dye a Charkhab
…. there lived a poor couple Thonglay Tashi and his wife Bugizom.
They had nothing that was worth keeping except for a charkhab.
Charkhab is a rain gear woven from yak-hairs, also used as a blanket during cold
winter months. Thonglay Tashi had waited a long time to dye his
charkhab. And finally one morning, he went to the forest to collect
dye shrubs. Before leaving the house, however, he advised his wife to
exchange some red dye for a ladle if a dye merchant arrived during his
Not long after Thonglay Tashi had left, a dye merchant arrived.
Bugizom offered to exchange her ladle with the red dye but the
merchant refused. She showed him a bigger ladle, only to be refused
again. Since they had no other valuables, she gave their charkhab in
exchange for his red dye. The merchant accepted it happily.
Soon Thonglay Tashi returned with a load of dye plants. As soon
as he crossed the threshold, he asked his wife whether a dye merchant
“A dye seller came and I bought the dye you wanted,” she replied.
“My wise old woman did a good job,” Thonglay Tashi said in joy.
“Now take out the charkhab and let me start dyeing.”
But, she replied, “I gave the charkhab to the dye merchant since he
refused to accept the ladle.”
“My foolish old woman didn’t do a good job,” Thonglay Tashi said
and immediately left the house in pursuit of the dye merchant.
On his way, Thonglay Tashi saw a woman, weaving beside a cave,
and recognised her as the dye merchant’s wife. He went near her
unnoticed and sat beside her as if he was meditating. The woman saw
him after some time and shouted, “Who are you? Why are you here?
Did you come here from heaven above or hell below? Why are you
Thonglay Tashi knew that she had lost a son a few years before and
replied, “I have come from the hell where your son has broken the
horns of Shenje! He has sent me to get reparations from his parents.”
Shenje is the Lord of Death.
“Our son is turning our heads down even from the hell. What an
expensive mistake! Did he fight with Shenje? Take whatever
reparations Shenje wants,” she cried and offered all her wealth.
No sooner did Thonglay leave her house carrying a load of
valuables than the dye merchant arrived home. His wife refused to
speak to him that evening. He finally asked why she was so quiet.
“I’m mad at our late son’s temper. He has broken Shenje’s horns in
the hell and the Lord has sent a man to get reparations. The man took
all our money, belongings, valuables… whatever he could carry,” she
explained, breaking down to tears.
The dye merchant immediately went out to find Shenje’s
messenger. He saw a man carrying a load from a distance, and
shouted, “Let me see how far and fast you can run before I catch you,”
and began to chase him. Thonglay Tashi ran as fast as he could when
he suddenly came across a man who was ploughing a field. “Run, run,
run, a man is coming to kill you,” he shouted. The ploughman
immediately ran away for his life while Thonglay Tashi took up the
plough. The dye merchant arrived soon, panting, and asked for the
direction the man had fled.
Thonglay Tashi showed the direction, and off the dye merchant
went. After some time, he caught the ploughman and asked him to
return his belongings.
“I’m innocent,” he said and explained how a stranger had fooled
him into running.
Meanwhile, Thonglay Tashi returned home with the ploughman’s
two oxen and asked his wife, “Take the oxen to a place where the grass
is greenest and most luxuriant.”
Bugizom looked everywhere but wherever she looked she found
that only cliffs were all covered with the greenest grass. So, she drove
the animals to the top where the grass appeared greenest, and sadly the
oxen fell off the cliff and died.
Author: Dorji Penjore from Dangphu Dingphu