GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (31)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Back on our way, I notice that the altitude now allows the growth of firs and pines of various types and sizes. From the bare rocks stand out small and joyous waterfalls whose fate reveal another peculiarity of Bhutanese Buddhism. I am referring to water mills with religious functions. The movement of its blades does not grind grains of corn, rather it turns colorful oratory cylinders coupled in a kind of stone tower with a hermitage ceiling. The Bhutanese believe that the precious liquid, thus blessed, will purify all life forms present in the lakes and oceans that the stream, and then the river, will feed at the end of its course.

During the long journey, Estevão Cacela met people traveling to Rangamati that advised him to return to the village. One of the pilgrims assured him that after settling his affairs on the plain, he would gladly take him to the presence of the king of Bhutan. Cacela refused to follow his recommendation and continued his journey, not without first sending a message to João Cabral in order that he, if it were true what they said, could accompany them on their return, thus joining Cacela, the young man, and the two interpreters. These would come later with a new group of travelers. This time “soldiers of this Kingdom saying that they were going to the same land I was heading to. Thinking that I could trust them, I arranged a way that they could accompany and guide me.” Mere illusion and a crass error. At the end of the second day, in collusion with the Bengali interpreters, the Bhutanese military manhandled and assaulted the priest, leaving him alone with his breviary and walking stick. Cacela describes the episode in the following way: “When we passed a river, leaving me a little behind, taking with them the very little possessions I had, all four of them proceeded ahead in such a hurry, that took me completely by surprise.”

Sangay Dorgi (our guide) is aware of this episode, and after a few explanations about the function and symbology of the stupas – structures where the mortal remains of the holy men are enclosed – tells us his version of events. “The two priests were assaulted by local people, although they  were not aware of their condition or nationality,” he says. And he concludes: “The news soon reached the ears of the king, and he immediately realized that he was in the presence of a special kind of men. So he ordered them to be treated well and made the decision to meet them.”

This is a version of events that is not in harmony with the contents of the “Relation” written by Estevão Cacela, but it is obligatory to be attentive to oral tradition and to local stories, even if they are just simple legends.

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