Khegpa, the Head Hunter



A tale of a time long gone, not even to the nearest of men's remembrance, a mother left her only daughter at home, Tshering Zangmo by the name  while she went to fetch firewood in the nearest forest. As was the usual practice for a single mother to keep her daughter away from exhaustion and weariness of climbing the mountains and vales, she left her all by herself at their makeshift home.
And unexpectedly, she took quite a longer time to return home that day. And the fact was obvious that the firewood at a nearby places was not enough for her load.

As usual, she reached home, tired and fatigue with a bunch of firewood enough for another week or so. The first thing the mother did was, a motherly instinct, looked for her daughter. She wanted to make sure that she had looked after herself well, while she was away.

'Tshering, Tshering', she called out to her daughter loud. Silence prevailed at each and every corner of the place. She panicked and ran here and there, looking for her, but all in vain. Nobody at the village had the slightest clue about Tshering's whereabouts.

No, she never did go with any of the girl at the village anywhere because she would not return with any of the person that the mother knew at the village.
Not losing hope, the mother waits at the door of her makeshift for her daughter’s return singing the hymn of
ཤོག་ཤོག་ ཚེ་རིང་བཟང་མོ་ཤོག
ཨ་མའི་བུ་མོ་ཚེ་རིང་བཟང་མོ་ཁྱོད་ཤོག
But a heart ripping rumour it was the mother heard that Tshering was believed to be abducted by Khegpa, the Head Hunter. And the legend has it that Tshering Zangmo on the other hand could hear her mother sing from the dark cell under the bridge. Perhaps the waves of the river had flown her mother's sorrow. Imprisoned and let to be infested by the spirit and the dark force of the bridge, Tshering Zangmo is believed to be dead, whining inside the dark cell.

And it’s still believed that a person abducted is kept inside the dark cell under the bridge to please the spirit and the deity of the place so that the bridge will be protected by the dark force.

My grandparents used to say that Khegpas were just like us, but wore mask featuring different faces in order to hide their identity. I still wonder if they had seen one.And every time Khegpa, the Head Hunter becomes the talk of the town, it send the people early inside their homes. Hunters would return home early. A hunt unsuccessful won’t be a problem amidst the fear of Khegpa, herders would bring their herd early, before dusk and nobody would travel far enough. But every night, village men, strong and bravest of all would guard the village at every entry and exit of the village with poison arrows and bow, even the sword.

We would feel safer in our homes.

But it is still a matter of wonder about why would they hunt head and what makes the human head so significant that it is being hunted down every time there's new dam construction. But we don't have any significant documentation evidence to prove that whatever people talk is true. And fact if it be, there would be countless head hunt because Bhutan's geographical landscape and hydroelectric projects have immense provisions of bridge, tunnel and dam constructions, but the fear of Khegpa or the Head Hunter is very occasional.

But the fear associated with Head Hunter and disappearance of people might have something to do with the stories every one of us has heard during our childhood days.

And some stories still make us remember the tricks played by village men to capture the Head Hunters during the olden times.  By letting the children play outside to lure the head Hunters, it is said that the Head Hunters were shot with poisoned arrows from the hide out, capturing and killing them on spot.

Or is it on the basis of another oral story, Khegpa or the Head Hunter comes into limelight when few people, who ran out of provisions at home spread the fear in people so that they get enough time and place to steal. Usually during those fearful times, people tend to assemble and be in group at some large and spacious homes. This gives Khegpas or the head Hunters the best chance to steal.

Even though the stories of children abduction by so called Khegpa is a fear in everybody's mind, how does the human head becomes necessary at the dam and bridge construction is still a mystery.


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