Monday, March 7, 2011

An Intriguing Old Bhutanese Saying

One evening, during my most recent trek to Masagung and Gungchen Taag areas, I got to hear of an intriguing old Bhutanese saying, an idiom of sorts, which had me thinking for a while. As idioms go, this one wasn’t all that earth shattering in its relevance, nor was I hearing of such an idiom for the first time. But it was something else that held my attention and caused me to brood over it; beyond the wisdom that is inherent in it, there was something far more revealing about it - something that possibly points to its origin.
The saying went thus:
“Ngado Goe Gii Chaag; Kaang Oro Gii Jiip”

Translated into English, the saying would go thus:
“The Raptor cracks open the thigh bone but the Raven gets the marrow”
What the saying means is that the raptor goes to all the trouble of cracking open the thigh bone but the low lying Oro gets at the marrow faster than the high flying raptor.
But as I said earlier, for me, beyond the significance of the saying, it was the reference it makes to two high altitude birds that got me thinking. Consider this:
The raptor in question cannot be any old raptor but the famous Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) - a vulture species with a unique skill. In Bhutan these high altitude birds live above 3,300 Mtrs. I have seen them in Soe-Yaktsa. Now, this is the only raptor that I know of who picks up thigh bones of carcasses, flies high into the sky and then, with unfailing precision, drops it onto a boulder - to crack it open to get at the marrow inside.
The Oro, on the other hand, is the Common Raven (Corvus corax) - Bhutan’s national bird. This bird too is a high altitude bird - living at altitudes beyond 4,000 Mtrs.
Majority of the Bhutanese people live at altitudes lower than 2,800 Mtrs. Thus, it is unlikely that they would ever see these birds in their life time. In fact, most of them would not have even heard of them.
Therefore, I am inclined to believe that the saying was coined by the nomadic Bjops of North-Western Bhutan or, even possibly, the Dakpas of Eastern Bhutan. They are the only people who inhabit the areas where these birds live and breed.
Any views on this?


  1. Well then there is no mistake in choosing oro the raven as our national bird, since it quite resembles Bhutanese way of doing things. lol. Joke intended!

    Amazing pictures.

  2. Hello Yeshey sir, your blog is awesome and the posts are so nice and educative. I have been trying so hard to share your post in our group Blogyul-Blogging Bhutan, but i couldn't open as individual post than only while commenting....can you help me? i want to share some of your posts in our facebook group...:)

  3. Hi PaSsu

    Sogyel, I would be happy to help - let me know how.

  4. Yeshey, if Sogyal knew the "how" would he ask you? ha ha ha
    really, your blog is different; there is no archive and you seem to know how to make multiple post under one date...
    Explain how you do it?

  5. PaSsu,

    Now I am lost - I don't know how I do it. I don't even know what you are talking of when you mention archive. I just post them by hitting "new post". That is it! :)

  6. Sir.....i wish i could help you so that you can help me ........hope woulds learn oneday

  7. I think your explanation makes lots of sense.
    When I was in Chebesa in 2008, locals warned me while drinking stream water directly. They said, Lammergeier would also drop human bones for marrows. The people of Chebasa seems to leave dead body as JINPA on rocks for Himalayan Griffon.
    I have never seen Lammergeier dropping bones, though i would love it see it once in my lifetime.