GREAT FIGURES OF THE MISSIONARY WORK – Bengal and the Kingdom of the Dragon (61)

– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

While reading the Relation, we learn that the traveller priests in the initial period of their itinerancy took the first steps in the local language. As Cacela confesses, “in these months we diligently seek to learn the language.” In Chagri the priests would continue to learn Bhutanese language, but with great difficulty because of the lack of proper teachers. As it turned out, the monk who accompanied them was from Tsaparang, in Central Tibet, where they spoke a totally different language. Cacela draws attention to the notorious differences in the dialects of the Tibetan universe: “These realms all have the same language but there is much variety in pronunciation and terminations, and corruption in some parts makes it almost another, particularly in this Kingdom, which, being in this corner without their own trade or commerce with the other kingdoms, is much changed.”

As might be expected, the main concern of the priests was to begin translating the Christian canons into Bhutanese language: “We compose the necessary prayers and instructions in this language and write them in their characters so that the folks may learn more easily. It also helps us a lot to already know how to read their books, even though we do not understand them well enough because they are composed in the best and most polished language.”

Having as main task the conversion of the monarch, Cabral and Cacela had with him deep theological conversations, but soon they realized his disinterest. Disillusioned, they expressed a desire to continue their journey. Bhutan was not destiny, it was just a simple step.

However, the presence of such distinguished visitors brought prestige to Shabdrung and he did not want to see them as guests of his rival and enemy. Thus, he delayed them, asking the monks to try to discourage the Portuguese from this attempt. Finally he himself spoke to them. In this way Cacela transcribes the monarch’s feeling: “saying that he would be totally discredited if he allowed us to proceed; that all these kingdoms knew that we were with him, and that to have us here was a great honor of his, so for that reason he would not let us go ahead, and also because in the beginning we told him that we would always remain here, nor would we ever leave him.”

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