The next five documents, 27–31, all deal with a single case that occurred in Te in the winter of 1897. The episode concerns an elopement that failed in dramatic circumstances, and the documents comprise the recorded statements of the various parties involved. Since these statements deal with much the same events from different—and sometimes conflicting—perspectives, it may be helpful if they were prefaced with a general summary and, equally important, a dramatis personae.

Defendants in the case

lNga mchog bu ’khrid the young woman at the centre of the case
mGar ba chos skyabs her lover
Sangs rgyas bu ’khrid mGar ba chos skyabs’ mother
gSum mchog bu ’khrid mGar ba chos skyabs’ wife
Kun dga’ bu ’khrid mGar ba chos skyabs’ mother-in-law
dPal bzang mGar ba chos skyabs’ elder sister
Du li bkra shis an advisor to the couple, apparently a senior relative of mGar ba chos skyabs
bKra shis tshe dbang an intermediary and the financial guarantor of Kun dga’ ’bu khrid
dPal ldan an intermediary

Minor figures

lNga mchog bu ’khrid’s unnamed father
Phur pa srid thar an intermediary representing mGar ba chos skyabs
bKra shis tshe dbang an intermediary representing mGar ba chos skyabs; financial guarantor for Kun dga’ bu ’khrid
Srid thar zla ba an intermediary representing mGar ba chos skyabs
Tshe ring dar po financial guarantor for Sangs rgyas bu ’khrid
Phun tshogs srid thar financial guarantor for mGar ba chos skyabs and gSum mchog bu ’khrid
Ka mi srid thar financial guarantor for Du li bkra shis
Lha bon bKra shis financial guarantor for bKra shis tshe dbang Phur pa don grub financial guarantor for dPal bzang
Phun tshogs tshe ring financial guarantor for lNga mchog bu ’khrid

In the early stages of the romance mGar ba chos skyabs sent an intermediary to lNga mchog bu ’khrid. She responded by quoting a proverb to the effect that when two people really want to be together, the relationship will work even if they are apparently incompatible—as different as an Indian and a Tibetan. If they are not interested in establishing a relationship, they will not remain together even if they are as naturally matched as two facing millstones. (The fact that the analogy occurs twice in the form of incomplete sentences suggests that it was indeed a well-known proverb at the time these documents were written.) mGar ba chos skyabs took this as a sign of encouragement. Before setting off on a trading trip with some companions, he went to visit lNga mchog bu ’khrid while she was in bed. He asked her to marry him, but she replied by pointing out that he was already married. Following this rejection of his advances he brought an intermediary, probably dPal ldan, to intercede on his behalf. dPal ldan, speaking on behalf of mGar ba chos skyabs, expressed the wish that the couple should spend the rest of their lives together and joined them by holding the hand of each. The commitment was supported by the promise of a settlement of 40 rupees if he should leave her. On the strength of this reassurance, lNga mchog bu ’khrid agreed to sleep with him.

Some time later the young woman discovered she was pregnant, and the couple decided to seek sanctuary in the village temple, the ‘Great Compassionate One’ (so called because it houses an image of Avalokitesvara). The intention behind this move is not clear; it is likely that the couple planned to declare their affair and their wish to live together, and wanted to negotiate an agreement with the young man’s family from an environment where they could not be harmed.

However, while they were locked inside the temple, four of mGar ba chos skyabs’ relatives arrived: his mother, his sister, his wife and his wife’s mother. With the help of a variety of implements they broke through the two sets of doors and attacked lNga mchog bu ’khrid. It is customary in Baragaon, as in other culturally Tibetan areas, for the wives of adulterous men to punish the girlfriends by cutting off their hair, and this the four women attempted to do. lNga mchog successfully fought off her assailants, and remained in the temple while mGar ba chos skyabs was escorted back to the bosom of his family with the help of some male relatives. lNga mchog bu ’khrid then left the temple and spent two days wandering the hills near Te. While she was away her father received a visit from two intermediaries, representing mGar ba chos skyabs, who came to negotiate a financial settlement. lNga mchog’s father succeeded in raising their starting offer from 10 rupees to 30 rupees, but then broached the matter of the legitimacy of the unborn child. The term that is being used in one of the documents for the sum that is being negotiated is bor cha, which generally denotes a divorce settlement. lNga mchog’s father pointed out to the intermediaries that his daughter’s acceptance of this compensation would imply that the child was legitimate, presumably on the grounds that it gave lNga mchog the legal status of a wife. The intermediaries disagreed: the fact that there was no written agreement (chod tshig) between mGar ba chos skyabs and lNga mchog bu ’khrid appears to have been a significant factor in weakening her legal position.

The case was brought before the legal council of the community. For relatively straightfor- ward offences (allowing cattle to stray into crops, misuse of public resources and so forth) the headmen or constables impose fines without consultation. In a complex case of this sort, how- ever, it would not be unusual to engage an outside intermediary or to appoint members of the community who had a reputation for impartiality and fairness. All the documents are addressed to “the headmen and mi ’dus of Te”. In documents from Panchgaon, south of Baragaon, the term mi thus (variously spelt) denotes a senior figure who serves for a period of one or more years, along with the headman (rgan pa). There is no evidence that the regu- lar officialdom of Te ever featured a mi ’dus/ mi thus. However, since it is not clear whether the term is being used in the present case as a synonym for rol po (the constables), or desig- nates one or more people who have been appointed for the specific incident, I have translated it non-committally as ‘officials’.

The four women who attacked lNga mchog bu ’khrid were each fined 24 rupees, probably for violating the sanctuary of the temple. All the other protagonists received various fines, but nowhere are the actual offences specified. mGar ba chos skyabs, the suitor, received two fines: one of 12 rupees and one of 24 rupees. The intermediaries Du li bkra shis, bKra shis tshe dbang and dPal ldan were each fined 24 rupees. lNga mchog bu ’khrid herself was fined 12 rupees. We do not know whether her unborn child was accorded legitimacy.


Date: Fire Pig year, 1st month, 18th day (1887?)
Lines: 44
Script: ’khyug


  1. me mo ’phags lo’i zla ba dang po’i tshes 18 [nyin |] gan mi bdus bsnams gyis ’khrims bzhabs su bzhus ba
  2. bsdag mi bstags khung bshams bsal nas | ngos snga mchog bu ’phrig nas | mug ga ’ja’ man ’phul pa’i bsnying
  3. po la | mngon ngos mal (sa ru) kho pho ga ra yong bdus ngos nas zer ba ni yong mi cho zer kyang mi nyan |
  4. kho pho nas bar mi khyer nas | ’u gnyis shis kral (ma gtogs) (son gral) med zer par (brten nas) | kho pho’i lags ba
  5. bar mi la bster bar mi lags pa ngos la bster bar brten nas | mchod tshigs dngul bzhi bcu kho pho ga ra chos
  6. bskyabs nas gal pa ’byung tshes bar mi yi[s] lags pa nas ngos lags du bster gyu mchod tshigs mchod pa’i gyu la
  7. brten nas bsems phyal dang lus shor byung pa yin | byas sor khogs pa sha lhu gis mkhang pa dang | kho pho nas
  8. bar mi btang bar (brten nas) | ngos gnyis shis ’bral (ma gtogs) son gral med pa’i bskor nas | (thugs rje) (chen po) ru ’phrad
  9. nas bsdod pa yin | mngon kyang ’khras brten thub pa’i srol khyun ’dug pas | ngos gnyis kyang lung pa’i slo ba
  10. bar dang srol khyun dang mthun pa’i las byed nas (thugs rje) (chen po) nang du ’phras nas ’dod pa ngos ma yin |
  11. (thugs rje) (chen po) yis chos nas nas kyang nang go gyabs tshar | phyis go la gol blcags rgyabs mtshar nas | byas sor ga gris [u?] ’dzod nas
  12. sha {1S} shu {1S} zer mi gcigs ’dug pas | ngos sems la kang khyam gyug mi gcigs yin nam bsam pa ’byung | des nas (sangs rgyas)
  13. bu khrigs dang | dkun ka bu ’phrig | dpal bzang dang gsum mchogs | khong mi ngo zhis yong nas | phyis go yis
  14. dgol lcags spe nas nang go ru slebs ’byung | sdes nas ngos gnyis kyis nang go la nang nas bkag kyang ma thub
  15. par | go la bdung zhur byed nas kyang ste’u {go rtsa’i} sta ri bstogs rtsis khyer las zer ba gos ba ngos ma (ma gtogs) | go rtsa
  16. ste’u bsto[gs] rtsis sta ris khyer mi khyer ba ma mthong | go la gang gis bdung zhur byed pa dang mi su yi gos zhur pa ma thong |
  17. byas [s]or nang go lcags nas nang go yis nang du gsum chogs slebs yong nas ’dzar gyabs gyu zer nas dris lags du khur nas yong
  18. nas bstags las brags gyu zer ’bar brten | kho gsum [1] chogs yis lags nas dri | ngos kyis ’phrogs nas bdung pa ngos ma
  19. yin | kho mo gsum phyog nas ngos kyis dbol rtags gis zis gcigs dang byu ru drug ’phrogs nas khyer yod | byas sor
  20. gol bcags spes mtshar go blcags tshar nas du li (bkra shis) dang (bkra shis) tshes dbang slebs nas | khong mi phyog pa’i
  21. [1]ul byas nas kho pho ga ra chos bskyab ’khrid nas song nas [1] ngos kho rogs smug ’phrod dang | mon mthang khyel du
  22. bzhags gnyis ’grim ’byung | (gzhag gsum) gyis ngo ma/la kho pho’i bar mi phur pa sris thar dang | du li (bkra shis)
  23. khong gnyis ngo kyis a ba yis khang ba ru slebs bzhin | ngos nas khong gnyis la dris ba la | khyed gnyis
  24. gan la ’phebs bzer bgris pas | khong gnyis nas zer ba la | khong mes smad ’grigs song a | bo mo
  25. ga la song | bzhu ba phul du yong ba yin zer | bsdes bdus ngos nas zer pa | rtsa’u gnyis ngos pyi {1S}
  26. bshes | bo mo grags la bcebs dang | chu la b[c]ebs dang | gyam mkhang la {mkhang la} mo mthon nas
  27. song ba yin nam smi shes zer ba yin | gad po bde gra ma gsung zer | ngos zer ba bo mo sde ru med pa ngos ma
  28. slo mi sde na ngos gol lcags spes nas ster ro | khyed rang bstas zer pas | gan pho’i dzun bra mi gsung zer
  29. khong gnyis slo bskal nas logs song pas | sdes yis nyis ma shams ma bo mo snga chog a kyis nang
  30. la byus ru slebs ’byung | khong yis bar mi gnyis kyang nyis ma shar nas slebs ’byung | de bdus bar mi gnyis
  31. dang ngos gnyis mchogs bzhibs par phar tshur byung | bar mi gnyis nas zer ba la | ngos gnyis nas ga ra la
  32. zhibs par byas kyang | g.yag chen gyis phar gnyog (ma gtogs) | bris mo’i tshur gnyog med zer | khyed kyis
  33. bo mo bsden pa ’dug dngul bcu ster zer ’byung | des dus dngul bcu la bo mo hag ma dgos ba sdad
  34. pa yin | yang tshes 11 gis nyin sris thar zla ba dang phur pa sris thar {lS} gnyis slebs nas bdab shog lan
  35. gsum gis nang du bzhibs par phar tshur byas nas dang ma la dngul 13 bar ma{r} la dngul 16 gzhug ma la
  36. dngul 25 dang | thar thug du dngul 30 la ngos bo mo hag dgos ba spes dang ma dgos spes yin | ngos bo
  37. mo la khogs pa sha lhu gis khang ’dug pas | bu tsha dang bo mo {1S} gang kyes kyang tsha lugs byas gyu yin
  38. nam | nya lu nyal mo byed gyu zer nas hag ma dgos pa sdad pa yin | byas sor ngos nas zer pa phyi ru
  39. byed kyang nang du byed kyang ngos bo mo la bor phya thob phan bu tsha bo mo gang skyes kyang tshang lug du
  40. yong mi yong zer pas | sde gra gsung na gr[i]gs min dug zer | khong logs song zhig/zhin | {±4}
  41. dgong tshigs rnams bsden pa yin | dgong tshig rnams gyis an dang lung pa’i srol la mthun pa’i bka’
  42. mkhrim byor gnang yod pa dang | ma zad gong ka sar nas ’khrim kyis sdag shar mdzad ’dus
  43. ’dzun pa ’byung shar tshes | dgong ka sar nas bka’ ’khrims gang gnang kyang man mi zhu zhus
  44. pa’i don cha des la mi gyur snga mchogs bu khrigs rang thad kyis rtags X

1. phag lo’i; mi ’dus rnams kyis; zhabs su zhu 2. bdag ming rtags khungs sham gsal; lnga mchog bu ’khrid; mukh ko jamāni ’bul ba’i snying 3. sngon ngos; mgar ba yong dus; mi chog zer 4. ’chi ’bral; gson ’bral; kho bos lag pa 5. ster bar mis lag pa; chod tshig; mgar ba chos 6. skyabs nas ’gal ba; lag pa nas ngos kyi lag tu ster rgyu’i chod tshig chod pa’i rgyu 7. sems ’chal; rjes sor khogs pa sha lhu yis ’khengs pa 8. ’chi ’bral; gson ’bral; chen po ru ’khras 9. bsdad pa; sngon kyang; srol rgyun; lung pa’i blo {ba}? 10. srol rgyun; byas nas; ’khras nas bsdad pa dngos ma 11. yi mchod gnas; nang sgo brgyab; phyi sgo la sgo lcags brgyab tshar; rjes sor; ga gris su ’dzod? 12. sha shu?; mi gcig; nga’i/ ngos kyi; rkang ’khyams rgyug mi gcig 13. bu ’khrid; kun dga’ bu ’khrid; gsum mchog; bzhi yong; phyi sgo yi 14. sgo lcags phyed (SMT pe) nas nang sgo ru slebs byung; de nas; nang sgo {la} nang 15. rdung zhur (< gzhu) byas; sta ri tog tse; khyele (SMT imperative form of ’khyer) zer; go ba dngos ma 16. ste’u tog tse sta ri; sgo la; su yis sgo zhur (< gzhu) ba ma mthong 17. rjes sor nang sgo bcag nas nang sgo yi; gsum mchog; dza rgyab rgyu; gri lag tu ’khur stag las/lhas ’breg rgyu zer bar; gsum mchog gi lag nas gri; ’phrog nas brdungs pa dngos ma; gsum mchog; oltag gi gzi gcig; rjes sor 20. sgo lcags phyed tshar sgo bcag tshar; bkra shis tshe dbang; mi chog pa’i 22. zhag gnyis; zhag gsum gyi; srid thar 23. ngos kyi a ba yi; slebs shing 24. gang la ’phebs zer dris; mes mes 26. zhu ba ’bul; de dus; rtsa’u; ci 26. shes; brag la lcebs; chu la lcebs; gyenkham la mo ’thon nas 27. mi shes; rgad po de ’dra; ’di ru 28. blo mi bde; sgo lcags phyed; ltos zer; rgan pos rdzun ’dra 29. blo bkal; log song; de’i nyi ma sham ma; lnga mchog aki’i 30. juru (< byung ’dug) slebs byung; khong gis; slebs byung; de dus 31. gnyis phyogs zhib par; mgar ba la 32. zhib par; ’bri mos tshur 33. bden pa; zer byung; des dus; ha ma go bar bsdad; gi nyin; srid thar; (bdab shog)? 35. gi nang du zhib par; mjug ma 36. (ha go ba phye dang ma go {ba} phye {pa} yin)? 37. sha lhu yis ’khengs; gang skyes; tshalu byed rgyu 38. nyolu (< nyal bu) byed rgyu; ha ma go bar bsdad; rjes sor 39. ’bor cha; tshalu 40. de ’dra; mi ’dug; log song zhing? 41. gong tshig; bden pa; gong tshig rnams kyis ain dang 42. khrims sbyor; gong kacaharī nas khrims kyis (dag gsher) mdzad dus; 43. rdzun; shar tshe; gong kacaharī; bka’ khrims 44. de la mi ’gyur lnga mchog bu ’khrid

Female Fire Pig year, first month, 18th day. To the legal authority of the headmen and officials of Te. The subject of the verbal testimony by me, lNga mchog bu ’khrid, whose name and thumbprint are provided below [is as follows].

When mGar ba previously came to my bed I told him that he should not come, but he would not listen. He brought an intermediary, and after saying that the two of us should separate only in death, not in life, he gave his hand to the intermediary. The intermediary then gave me his hand. mGar ba chos skyabs made a promise that if he broke his word on this the intermediary would give me 40 rupees. On the strength of this promise, I became passionately aroused, and let my body go. Later on, I became pregnant, and because he had sent an intermediary, in the light of [his saying that] the two of us should be separated only in death, not in life, I sought asylum in the Great Compassionate One [the village temple]. From past times there has been a custom of using this temple as a refuge in such circumstances, and it is true that we took refuge there in accordance with this tradition. The chaplain of the Great Compassionate One shut the inner door and locked the outer door.

Later on we heard someone speaking outside (it is not clear from the text what was being said), and assumed that it was someone on the way to a nocturnal tryst (SMT idiom, lit. ‘someone going for a stroll’). Then four people, Sangs rgyas bu khrid, Kun dga’ bu khrid, dPal bzang and gSum mchog, came and opened the lock of the outer door and reached the inner door. But because the two of us blocked the inner door from the inside they could not enter. They pound- ed on the door we heard them calling for adzes, axes and pickaxes. We only heard this, and did not see whether adzes, picks and axes were actually brought or not; nor did we see what it was they pounded on the door with, or who it was who was beating on the door. Finally they broke through the inner door, and gSum mchog entered. She said, “We must break through”, and approached, holding a knife in her hand. It is true that, because I heard her saying “We should tie her up and shave her head”, I seized the knife from gSum mchog’s hand and struck her. Then gSum mchog ripped from my necklace a gzi stone and six corals and took them away. After the lock had been opened and the door broken, Du li bkra shis and bKra shis tshe dbang arrived. They jostled (? [1]ul = ’phul?) mGar ba chos skyabs in a way they ought not to have done and took him away. Then I spent two days wandering on Kho rogs smug phrod and Lo nga mthang khyel. Before three days were up (?) Phur pa srid thar and Du li (bkra shis) came to my father’s house as his [mGar ba chos skyabs’] intermediaries. (From this point it is the father whose testimony is being reported.) “Why have you two come?” I asked them.

“[His family] has reached an agreement,” they replied. “Where has the girl gone? We have come to make a formal offer”.

“Nephews, what do I know?” I replied. “My daughter has taken her life either from the cliffs or in the water, or else she has crossed a pass to another land—I don’t know”.

“Old man,” they said, “don’t speak like that”.

“If you don’t believe she’s not here,” he said, “I’ll unlock the door and you can see for yourselves”.

“The old man wouldn’t lie,” they said, and, believing him, they departed.

The next morning the girl lNga mchog returned to her father’s house. And at dawn (of the following day) two intermediaries from his [mGar ba chos skyabs’] side came. The two parties—the two intermediaries on one side and we two on the other— discussed the matter in detail. The intermediaries said that they had questioned mGar ba [chos skyabs], and agreed that, [as the proverb goes,] “it is the big bull yak that lusts after the cow, not the cow that lusts after the bull”.

“Your daughter has told the truth,” they said, and offered 10 rupees [by way of a settlement]. However, my daughter would not accept it. Then on the eleventh day, Srid thar zla ba and Phur pa srid thar came, and the matter was discussed in great detail in three bargaining sessions. In the first of these they increased their offer to 13 rupees, in the second to 16 rupees, and in the third to 25 rupees. Finally they offered 30 rupees, and my daughter considered whether or not to accept.

I then asked whether, since she was pregnant, the child—be it a boy or a girl—would be legitimate or illegitimate, but they did not know. I then said that, whatever the case (lit. “whether it is done inside or outside”), from the moment a divorce settlement was received the child, whether a boy or a girl, should surely be regarded as legitimate. “What you are saying is not correct,” they said, and departed.

(lNga mchog resumes her testimony.) The above words are true. On the basis of these words please pass a sentence that accords with national law and village custom. And furthermore, when the matter is examined by the palace on high, if it transpires that there is some false- hood, I shall not oppose whatever judgment may be passed, and I, lNga mchog bu ’khrid, willingly set my thumbprint in affirmation of this testimony.