Jaga Tarshi, widely known as Jaga Darshi (Flagpole) because of his height (7 Feet 2 inches) is known for being the fastest and most famous messenger in Bhutan. He was capable of covering a distance of over 200 km in a single day with just a pair of ‘tebtem’ or cowhide sandals in those days.
Hailing from Wang Debsi, nine kilometers from Thimphu, Jaga Tarshi was a descendent of Pila Goenpa Wangyel of the brothers, Pala and Pila fame. Pala and Pila were “nyagoe” or strongmen known for their size, strength and bravery. They served various Zhabdrung reincarnates and Penlops as warriors and bodyguards in the late 18th and early 19th century.
At the age of 20, Jagar Tarshi was taken to Bumthang to serve the Second King, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuk by Gongzim Sonam Tobgay Dorji. He served as a Zhinghap and among his many duties he was an attendant and personal bodyguard to the Second King.
His other important job was to deliver the Kings personal message from Bumthang to Thimphu and Paro in a single day. His journey would start at the crack of dawn when he would be handed the confidential Kasho. He would take various shortcuts such as crossing over the Hele La pass to Thimphu from Wangdue. He would reach Tashichhodzong just before the main gates of the Dzong were shut for the night.
Jagar Darshi continued his service in the Third King’s court and in 1950 was taken to serve as the Dzongsap for Thimphu. He, however begged out of his duty since he had very limited reading and writing ability. He was then sent to Phuentsholing as a ‘Lapon’ or supervisor on the first vehicle road being built from India to Bhutan. Infact, the man who wielded the first hoe into the ground at the Phuentsholing gate to start the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway was Jagar Tarshi.
An anecdote Jagar Darshi recounted in his later years about his favorite duties was to accompany the King on his many horseback journeys. The King loved horses and had them brought in from places as far away as Kham in eastern Tibet. Dashi’s job was to boost or lower the King from horseback and walk alongside the riding King at all times. While navigating narrow trails on steep cliff sides he held the King and guided the horse through the tough terrain, a job his height and strength allowed him to do with ease.
Another interesting story was that, along with a few friends he initiated and built the first school in Thimphu at Desyphakha where the present day Banquet Hall is located. His son Rinchen Tshering, was enrolled there amongst the first batch of students. The students were taught in Hindi and some English and later, after grade 4, they were sent to India to continue their studies.
Most of the Chhazhumis including Jagar Dashi who have exchanged their swords for prayer beads were not only the last of their generation but the end of an era.
**For more information please feel free to visit Bhutan Postal Museum. or Contact Find Bhutan