Excessive digging for Drukpa Kuenlay’s Rueb, sacred mud pill, poses risks of soil erosion in Punakha

Being a Buddhist country, the urge to seek well-being in spiritual and religious practice runs in the blood of most Bhutanese. In Punakha, Yoengu village of Talo Gewog is seeing an increasing number of visitors coming to collect what Bhutanese call Drukpa Kuenley’s Rueb, believed to be a sacred pill blessed by the Divine Madman. The supposedly sacred mud pill that can be found in the depths of soil has gained popularity among devotees in the last few months. However, this craze has the private landowners at the collection sites worried about soil erosion due to excessive digging. Landowners are now calling for interventions before the situation worsens.

People from everywhere come to collect the ‘Rueb’ from Yoengu village in Dongkokhar-Yoengu Chiwog in Talo Gewog.

The collection site is located along the shortcut connecting Punakha Dzong to Talo.

People collect the ‘Rueb’ by digging soil. Some private individuals claim that the practice has damaged their fencings.

According to the locals, most of the collectors visit during auspicious days and weekends. They say almost twenty to thirty people come together to collect the ‘Rueb’.

While the landowners say collecting ‘Rueb’ is not a problem, digging the soil to search for the ‘Rueb’ is an issue.

They say this is causing damage to their land and BBS learned that it indeed affected three households.

“Almost two to three buses of people are coming from the east. Around thirty people are coming together with tools and digging holes in the area searching for the Rueb. It highly poses risks of soil erosion here,” said Tshering Yangden, a landowner.

“There is a high chance of water directly running into my land if it rains. People never listen when we request them to refrain from digging the soil. So, what to do? We could not find any solution,” said Namgay Pem, another landowner.

There is no written evidence but people regard the Rueb as a religious pill of great value blessed by Lam Drukpa Kuenley in ancient times.

“Of course, we did not see Lam Drukpa Kuenley, still then we came here to collect some ‘Rueb’ to offer and install as ‘Zung’ and relics in some temples. I thought I could offer it to be installed in some chorten where Lam Drukpa Kuenley did not reach personally,” said Kencho Rinchen, a collector.

“The monks say these pills can be installed inside the statues as ‘Zung’ and also believe they can be consumed as sacred pills. Some people also say these pills will multiply in the future. Of course, I saw these pills for a long time, but I came to collect them only today,” said Nidup, another collector.

Besides the land degradation issue, landowners say people are polluting the area by littering and openly defecating near the collection sites.

Relevant authorities are also worried that the practice will damage the roads during the rainy season as soils from the collection site are spilled into the drain causing blockage.

The gewog administration is planning to take necessary actions.

“We thought that the situation might get worse hereafter if we do not take some preventive measures. Therefore, we put a fence on the lower part of the road. Likewise, we are also planning to install fencing on the upper side of the road as a temporary measure,” said Rinzin Wangchuk, Talo Gup.

According to the Gup, although the actual collection site is state-owned land it causes damages to the private land due to risks of soil erosion as people continue to dig the soil.

“If the situation becomes worse and goes beyond control, we might have to look for some other alternatives. We are thinking that we might have to either restrict collection at the site itself or might have to install some CCTV cameras and monitor it strictly in the future.”

The Gewog Administration is also urging people to refrain from digging the soil in the area.

Drukpa Kuenlay or the Divine Madman is a Tibetan saint who came to Bhutan in the 15th century to share his Buddhist teachings and is highly revered by the Bhutanese. He is widely is associated with fertility and also remembered for subduing demons and demonesses.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Phub Gyem

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