Did the mermaid of Luetshokha Tsho fall in love with a handsome cow herder?


The intriguing story of Luetshokha Tsho (Samtengang Lake)

Luetshokha Tsho (Samtengang Lake)

No, the mermaid of Luetshokha Tsho didn’t fall in love with a devilishly handsome cow herder as portrayed in the beautifully made Bhutanese movie ‘The Mermaid’. However, Luetshokha Tsho (Samtengang Lake) has an equally intriguing story to how it came about to be.

According to oral tradition, the current foot-shaped lake used to be the paddy field of a man named Phub Tenzin from Laekokha (a place few minutes walk from the lake). He used to grow barley in this field. One such spring evening, he harvested his barley for the year and laid the bundled plants out in the field to dry. When he was settling in his shed for the night to guard the plants, a gorgeous girl with a bucket of milk turned up at his door.

She requested him to let her sleep in his shed since it was late and she had nowhere to stay for the night. She assured him that she would look after his plants and told him to go home to his family. After much hesitation on his part and persistence on hers, he agreed.

Once he left, the girl stood in the centre of the field, poured the milk over her head and the field turned into a lake. In the morning, Ap Phub Tenzin returned to his barley plants floating in the newly formed lake with no slight sign of what the field used to be. Enraged, he shouted out loud that he’d burst the lake and started digging with his spade. The narrow passage through which you walk to the lake is believed to be what he dug to burst the lake.

The passage Ap Phub Tenzin attempted to make to discharge the lake water

The girl who is a mermaid, then appeared in the middle of the lake - half-human and fish tail waist down. She told him that it was her fate to be there and begged him not to discharge the water from the lake. He argued that the field gave him bountiful harvest and wouldn’t budge. She offered him a ’Tsho Lang’ (water bull) in exchange and told him that having it will naturally shower his household with wealth. Convinced, the man took the water bull and went home.

Before long, ‘Lhabue’ - a local tradition of praying to the local deities to be blessed with wealth and health happened. On the day, people make a bowl with cooked rice, mould bull from steamed rice, place the bull in the bowl, put wheat before the bull and put everything on display at Kuenzangling (a place about half an hour walk from Laekoha) as a form of offering to the local deities. Ap Phub Tenzin didn’t make his bull from rice and instead placed the water bull that the mermaid offered in his rice bowl for the occasion. People walked around to check out the best bull.

Ap Dorji from Chimtshiling (a place near Kuenzarling) was one of the spectators. While walking about and admiring the art work, to his surprise, he saw the bull in one of the rice bowls eating the wheat placed before it and using its horn to dig the rice bowl. He knew it for what it was. He rushed home, moulded a similar bull, exchanged it with the water bull and took the latter home. He wrapped it in a white scarf and placed it in his wall. It wasn’t long before he prospered. Today, the same family is one of the wealthiest in the area. It’s said that the family still has the water bull in the walls of the house. While rebuilding their family house in recent years, the wall in which the water bull is said to be embedded wasn’t dismantled and the new house was built on it.

House of Ap Dorji

People from the area still go to the lake to make offerings on auspicious days.

Years back when the lake was in its full glory, there used to be two small portions of the lake in the centre where the water was unusually clear in one portion while the other portion had grass growing in it. People say that those are the eyes of the deity. It’s said that the lake attacked an old lady grazing cows near the lake and the lady took off her wrapper and hit the eye, thus one eye was blinded and had grass growing in it.

People also say that it’s the female lake while one at Lamperi Botanical Garden is the male lake and both are ‘La Tsho’ of Gangtey Truelku.

Luetshokha Tsho is located near Samtengang School in Nyishog Gewog under Wangdue Phodrang and is one of the oldest lakes in the gewog. With concrete pavement around the lake, people can now walk around and enjoy the view if one goes on a weekend getaway.

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