Bhutan is one of the most natural settings of the world. Tucked in between the powerhouses of India and China, Bhutan has its own quaint charm. Little known to those outside the radar, Bhutan is the last standing Buddhist Kingdom. It is a mystic land where success is measured by Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. Bhutan truly lives by its rich traditional lifestyle where men and women still wear their national attires called Gho & Kira respectively. Dzongkha is the official language of Bhutan.
Engulfed amidst the numerous Dzongs (fortresses) and Lhakhangs (monastries) and straddling the Majestic Himalayas, this kingdom is rightly known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon. However,a vast swath of Bhutan is still not raided by the travel enthusiasts. While this is primely to ensure the retention of the Kingdom’s cultural heritage and environment, Bhutan has now been welcoming tourists to a significant extent.
A visit to the following supreme locales of the kingdom would certainly fascinate any travel fanatic.
Glancing through the Bhutanese lifestyle with the traditional style buildings and the monastries tourists can also hike up to the Tiger’s Nest also known as Paro Taksang or Taksang Palphug Monastry. It is an iconic Himalayan Buddhist sacred site perched 900 metres above the Paro Valley. The monastery was built in 1692, under the command of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal by Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgyal around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave,where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in 8th century.
When in Thimphu, do visit the National Memorial Chorten which was built in 1974 to honor the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It is a prominent landmark in the city with its golden spires and bells and popularly known as “the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan. Also fixate your eyes at the Buddha Dordenma,one of the largest sitting Buddhas in the world with a height of 169 feet(52m) . This statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha Dordenma itself, are made of bronze and gilded in gold. The other important structures include Sentokha Dzong,Tashichho Dzong and the National Library.
Dochula Pass: On the way from Thimphu to Punakha, get mesmerized by the beautiful Dochula Pass. It is a high mountain passage in the snow clad Himalayas which features 108 chortens(memorial stupas). It is one of the prime tourist attractions of the country that offers panoramic views of the scenic Himalayan mountain range.
This city features the notable Punakha Dzong which is considered as the most beautiful Dzong of Bhutan.This majestic structure was built upon the junction of the Pho Chhu & the Mo Chhu Rivers. It is also the winter residence of the Bhutan’s Central Monastic body. In 1907, Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. In 1987, the dzong was partially destroyed by fire.
Other places of interest mark the Chimi Lhakhang also known as The Fertility Temple or Madam’s Temple, Khamsum Yueling Monastry and the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang.
The Trashigang Dzong also known as the ‘fortress of auspicious hill’ stands on a picturesque landscape. It has religious as well as administrative importance because in the 17th century, the entire Trashigang was governed from the Dzong itself. The Sakteng Wildlife Santuary is also situated in Trashigang.
Festivals of Bhutan
Another spectacular attraction of Bhutan is its annual religious festival “Tsechu meaning “tenth day” held annually in various temples, monasteries and dzongs throughout the country.
The Tshechu is a religious event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava), who brought Buddhism to Bhutan.. However the exact month of the Tshechu varies from place to place and temple to temple.
Tourists can witness a large number of devotees and common people performing the traditional dance forms and making merry. It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once to in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century, during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages, they are performed jointly by monks and village men.
Two of the most popular Tsechus in terms of participation and audience are the Thimpu Tshechu and Paro Tsechu.