Introduction / History Bhutan, bordered by India to the south and China to the north, is a small country of great beauty and strategic importance. Its landscape varies from flat, sandy plains and humid forests to the steep, rocky Himalayas. The people of Bhutan call their country Druk-yal, which means "land of the thunder dragon".
Bhutan's society has four main groups: the Bhotia of Tibet (which includes the Bhutanese); the Eastern Bhotia, or Sharchop; the Nepalese; and various other tribal groups, each of which speaks a different language. The Bhotia (Bhutanese) are the largest group and are concentrated in western and central Bhutan. Most of the social and political leaders come from this group.
The Dakpa (also known as the Sagtengpa or Brokpa) are one of the many tribal groups. It is possible that they are related to the Limbu of Nepal. They live in the eastern part of the country, mainly in the Sakteng Valley. They speak a language called Mira Sagtengpa (or Brokpa).
What are their lives like? Most of the Dakpa are farmers. Their principal crops include corn, barley, and beets. They work long hours in the fields in order to produce enough to feed their families. Other important activities include herding yaks and sheep, and spinning and weaving wool. Most farmers also keep a few pigs and chickens. The yaks are used as beasts of burden. They also supply the families with meat and milk.
Since very little of the land in Bhutan is available for agriculture, the fields are often built in terraces up the mountain sides. Cultivation practices have changed little over the centuries, and most of the labor is provided by family members.
The Dakpa women wear their hair long and dress in traditional styles. They typically wear red and white silk ponchos, red silk jackets decorated with animal designs, and red wool capes. They may also wear braided black wool jackets. The men wear leather or cloth pants under big, white wool trousers, red wool jackets, and sometimes sleeveless outer garments made of leather and felt. Both men and women wear turquoise earrings. The most distinctive part of the Dakpa outfit, however, is the unique felt hat. The hats are flat, felt discs made from yak hair. Each hat has five tail-like "spouts" that allow water to drain and the head to stay dry.
Social status among the Dakpa is based on a family's economic position. There is no caste (rigid social class) system except among the Hindu Nepalese in the southern region. The royal family and a few other noble families are the only people in Bhutan who have surnames. Individuals normally have two names, but neither is considered a family name. Wives keep their maiden names, and children may have names that are not connected to either parent.
What are their beliefs? The Dakpa are virtually all Buddhist. They follow the "Red Hat" sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition, traditional Tibetan shamanism is also practiced by some. The shamanists believe in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits. They depend on a shaman (priest or priestess) to communicate with the spirits on their behalf.
Most Buddhist families have shrines for worship inside their homes. A poor family may have only a small Buddhist image or painting rather than a shrine. However, a wealthy family may use an entire room as a shrine, furnishing it with an elaborate altar, lamps, an incense burner, and other religious items.
What are their needs? Because of their history of isolation from other nations, the people of Bhutan do not trust outsiders. They are conservative by nature and value their ancient traditions. However, they are becoming more vulnerable to change due to their need for modern medicines and conveniences.
The Dakpa remain isolated and resistant to the Gospel. Much prayer and evangelization efforts are needed to break down these walls of isolation and tradition, and to see the release of a missions force for these people.
Prayer Points * Pray that missions organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Dakpa.
* Pray that the few Dakpa believers will rise to the challenge of taking the Gospel to their people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Bhutan through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Dakpa who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Pray that a strong local church will be established among the Dakpa.
George van Driem writes, 'Brokpa is spoken in and around Mera, where there are approximately 400 Brokpa households, and in and around Sakteng, where there are approximately six hundred Brokpa households'. These two locations are within the Trashigang District in eastern Bhutan, close to the border with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. (Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)