GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (52)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Of the collection of weaponry of the National Museum of Paro I highlight two small cannons, allegedly of Portuguese origin, stationed – I presume provisionally – at the main entrance door, next to some lockers. One is of iron; the other of bronze, and in both there isn’t any sign that identifies them. 

Neither coat of arms, nor date, nor anything. How they got there is a question that our guide Sangay Dorjay is not able to answer. It seems to me that he his somehow reluctant to speak of those objects which, it seems, would have been seven in all. Moreover, on this subject, in addition to the Bhutanese texts, I only found an article signed by Carlos Guímaro (who made a local research in Bhutan during some time) and published in the the Portuguese magazine Oriente, a subject that would later merit the attention of Nuno José Varela Rubim, author of several books on military subjects of the past, including the excellent The Portuguese Military Organization and Operations in the East, 1498-1580, which would have included an article on this issue. Apparently, no other initiative has been taken to try to unravel the origin of the mysterious guns and their fate. It will not take long before the two cannons that I saw will return to their usual place, perhaps going to occupy a space more in keeping with their condition and, perhaps, accompanied by relevant information, because for the moment there is nothing that informs the visitor about what it is.

The Bhutanese texts tell us that in addition to the supply of war material, Cacela and Cabral, in the name of the king of Portugal, would also have provided military aid, an offer that Shabdrung refused. Understandably, none of this is mentioned in Cacela’s Relation which throughout the account stresses on several occasions the dual spiritual and material function of the monarch, not forgetting to mention the territories in his power: “It is this King, who is called Droma Raja (Dharmaraja), aged 33 years, also High Lama of this Kingdom of Cambirasi, who is the  most powerful person of this realm that is very large and populated.”

In his text, Cacela is careful to highlight the motive of the quarrel between the Tibetan kings, both born in Central Tibet. Apparently, it was Shabdrung himself – the Droma Raja mentioned by Cacela – who had told him the reason for the war with Demba Cemba, his rival from Xigatse. It seems that he did not want to give him an important relic – “a bone from his deceased father” – and for this reason Shabdrung had left his hometown, “great and good one, whose name is Ralum, and is five days’ journey away.”

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