English | Dzongkha Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Langkey-a disappearing culture

Jul 7, 2021

There was a time when songs would echo across the fields of Jibjo Yuesarkha chiwog in Punakha during the paddy transplantation season. A farmer would sing to his oxen while ploughing the fields, bringing alive the otherwise a tedious and monotonous task. These days, it has become a rare sight. The practice, commonly known as Langkay, is slowly fading; the songs are becoming more distant.

Almost knee-deep in the dirt, Namgay Tshering sings a song as he controls and directs his oxen through the field. The 37-year-old is praising the animals for their hard work – a tradition he inherited from his forefathers.

A few terraces below, the roaring sound of a power tiller is overpowering. Here, there’s no one singing; everyone’s rushing to finish the day’s work as soon as possible.

It is a worrying sight for Namgay.

“Nowadays, everyone in the village is using a power tiller to plough fields, they don’t use oxen. I am worried this will cost us the traditional practices of ploughing fields.”

Following the farm mechanization efforts in the country, the farmers say power tillers have replaced bulls for ploughing their fields. The alternative is convenient and less laborious. But, it has come at a price. Most of them now reminisce about the days when Langkey was a thriving culture in the chiwog.

“As modern technologies emerge, the practice of ploughing fields using oxen is declining. And so, we do not hear people singing Langkey,” said Nakphel.

“Earlier, many people sang Langkey perfectly and a few would at least use oxen to plough fields. The community used to be filled Langkey songs. I wonder if the next generation would know what Langkey means. They might misunderstand it for a dance or just another song,” said Tshering Dorji.

Today, there are only two households in Jibjo Yuesarkha that depend entirely on bulls for farm works.

Meanwhile, back in Namgay’s field, he is determined to plough through the modern advancements in keeping alive the Langkey tradition. “I will continue using bulls for farm works as long as I can. I prefer the animals over a power tiller. I will try my best to keep the practice alive.”

At the same time, as one of the last bastions of Langkay, Namgay hopes that the songs he sings to his oxen would also fall on the ears of the next generation before it’s too late.


Changa Dorji, Punakha

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