Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Folklores from Bhutan ~ Tiger's Nest Monastery



The climb to Tiger's Nest Monastery also known as  Paro Taktsang was a life time experience. It was definitely tough going but when we got to see the monastery from close distance it was fascinating. Equally fascinating is the story of its creation. The monastery sits on the edge of a hill at 3120 meters above sea level, the path to which is difficult and narrow and it makes everyone wonder how this monastery was created so many years ago and why its called Tiger's Nest when there are no tigers around.


Well as per the legends, it was Guru Rinpoche who meditated at this sacred site. Guru Rinpoche is also referred to as Guru Padmasambava since it is believed that he was born in a lotus flower. He was a brahmin royal who spread tantric Buddhism in Bhutan. He is also referred to as the 'Second Buddha' and is highly revered in Bhutan.


Guru Padmasambava arrived in Paro Taktsang on a tiger's back from Tibet in the eighth century and bought Buddhism to Bhutan. He meditated at Paro Taktsang and hence the monastery is also known as Tiger's Nest. He meditated here for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. He also conquered and banished the local demons of the area who were killing people.


Today devotees and tourists need to trek 4.5 km uphill to reach the sacred monastery where Guru Rinpoche had once meditated.

Tiger's Nest Monastery

Tiger's Nest Monastery

Tiger's Nest Monastery

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Folklores from Bhutan ~ The story of Takin



"This is Bhutan's National Animal", Yeshley told us as we spotted a few takins roaming and eating grass in Takin Reserve, on the outskirts of Bhutan. Our nod made him instantly understand that we have already done our research back home and know that Takin is the national animal of Bhutan.

Like any good travel guide, he also started telling us more about takins and their habitat. Takins are very rare and can be found in secluded forests in Bhutan, Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, India.

The best information he gave us was related to the folklore associated with Takin. According to the story, once a very rich man of Bhutan invited all monks and religious saints to a feast. There came some very famous monks and heads. Also came the divine madman Drukpa Kunley. Nobody knew Drukpa Kunley and his magical powers. Everyone thought him to be a commoner. To this he was a little angry and told people to treat him like a monk.

So people asked him to perform a miracle. He said that he would oblige only if he is given a goat and a cow to eat. He ate both in no time leaving only the head of the goat and the skeleton of the cow. He then took both the goat's head and the cow's skeleton, put them together and to everyone's surprise an animal got formed and came to life in front of their eyes. It ran and started feeding in the meadows nearby.

That was how the Takin came on earth. Its a rare animal and was a delight for us to see in Bhutan.

Takin strolling on the green grasses

Takin

Taking some rest

Monday, 11 December 2017

Heading to Jaldapara after entering india - Bhutan Diaries - 8


I woke up around 7 in the morning. Ankur had woke before me and had packed all our stuffs neatly. He had also ordered for tea. Today we were in no mood to get up fast to get ready. The morning was melancholy. Today we have to leave Bhutan, the country about which we loved everything and have got a hangover by now.

We were supposed to return back the day before had we not extended our stay permit for one more day. We had booked our coster bus tickets the day before from the Thimpu bus terminus. Costers are small buses and unlike Indian state buses they are way comfortable. Since standing is not allowed so they do not take more passengers than the number of seats available. So in order not to miss the bus in case it gets filled we had our tickets booked the day before.

By the time we reached the bus terminus at around 8, our bus was already there. The helper was cleaning the bus and making it ready for the day's journey. After he finished we handed over our luggage to him. We were given the best seats, the first row just behind the driver's seat. Ankur got down and bought some more snacks and tea. By this time all the seats got filled up. The bus helper tied all the passenger luggage and put them on the top of the bus and secured them with a rope.

bus terminus

Getting ready

 Bus started exactly at 8:15 am, the scheduled time. We started our journey back to Phuentshoing. The hilly roads was covered with fog and the air was crisp and cool. A very few roadside vegetable shops had opened. Women are mostly the ones who run the shops. Little children going to school in groups waved us and we waved them back. Some stretches of the road were fully white because of the wild roses blooming profusely during this time of the year. In many of our other road journeys in Bhutan we have witnessed this phenomenon before as well.

After almost 3 hours our bus stopped at a small restaurant. There are very few restaurants on the way and this one was one of those. It is actually a modified front of the owners house where the owner has converted one room into a sitting area and a small part of it into a kitchen.


Morning market

Misty mornings

We soon came across a check point where non Bhutanese were asked to show their permit at the check post. We showed our's and the official put a seal on the immigration paper. The seal denotes that the immigration paper is no more valid.

The remaining part of the journey was nothing eventful. The bus reached Phuentshoing bus terminus. Our luggage was untied from the top and given to us. We took a cab from there that took us till Bhutan gate. We submitted our immigration papers at a small office near the gate. Once we crossed the gate we were so excited and thankful. Excited because we are back to India and thankful to Bhutan for the amazing hospitality that we will never forget.

From Bhutan gate we took another jeep. Our trip is still not over. We will stay at Jaldapara Forest Reserve for a day before heading back to Bangalore. I will write about the amazing Jaldapara trip in a separate blog post.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Punakha, Bhutan Diaries - 7


While planning the trip to Punakha , I was constantly in confrontation with a doubt...whether to allot a night stay at Punakha or make it a day trip from Thimpu. After doing a lot of reading and analysis on the distance and weather I finally decided that we will keep Punakha as a day trip from Thimpu. Also the temperature in Punakha is much more than that of Thimpu or Paro, so in June it does not make much sense to spend a day. Maybe during the winter months the scenario would have been different.

Distance from Thimpu to Punakha is not much, around 90 km. We started early as usual to avoid the touristy crowd. The road goes via Dochulla Pass. 'La' means a mountain pass and Dochula is situated at an elevation of 3100 metres above sea level on the Thimpu Punakha Road. The pass is also famous for the Druk Wangyal Chortens or the 108 stupas arranged in 3 layers on a hillock at the pass. On a clear morning, the entire Bhutan Himalayan range can be seen from here but most of the time the weather remains foggy and cold.We also could not see the Bhutan Himalayan range at the time of going or coming back because of the fog.

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Opposite to the Druk Wangyal Chortens is the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang which is a temple built as a memorial to commemorate the Bhutanese causalities in the Assamese militant conflict. The interior of the temple has modern paintings related to modern Bhutanese culture such as airplanes, monk with laptop etc.

Druk Wangyal Lhakhang


From the road we saw the small Chimi Lhakhang village famous for the Chimi Lhakhang monastery and also for the houses which have elaborate and decorative paintings of phallus on the walls. Our driver Ugyen told us that we will come to the Monastery later on our way back.

We reached Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. It is situated at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley.  The source of the Mo chu river is in the northern hills of Lighsi and Laya in Bhutan and the Po Chu River is glacier fed. After both the rivers join at Punakha, they form the main river  known as Puna TsangChu and flows  through Wangdue Phodrang, crosses the Bhutan–India border at Kalikhola and eventually meets the Brahmaputra River in India.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

The Punakha Dzong is one of the most photographed dzong in the world for its beauty. We saw beautiful and vibrant jacaranda and bougainvillea blooms all around the dzong. We had to cross a small wooden bridge over the Mo Chu river to enter the dzong. From the bridge,we saw a group of tourists doing water rafting in the Mo Chu river.. They waved at us and we waved them back.

The dzong was the administrative capital of Bhutan till 1955 after which the capital was shifted to Thimpu. However the dzong still holds its glory. Now it is the administrative capital of Punakha district and the second largest dzong in Bhutan.

We had to climb a small wooden staircase to enter the dzong. The security personnel did a customary bag check and allowed us to get in. The architecture inside is very very beautiful with wooden staircases, railings, floors and wall paintings. There are two levels of courtyards. Administrative offices are in the first courtyard while monks hostels are on the second courtyard. There is also a very old Bodhi tree in the centre. The dzong also houses a big temple.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

The next place of interest was the suspension bridge that is very near to the Punakha Dzong.It is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and is built on the Pho Chu river. It swings pretty well when the winds are strong and that can give a panic attack to any tourist.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

We had our lunch at Lingar Hotel. They took a lot of time to serve us but the food was amazing. Their food items had a good mix of Bhutanese and Indian (strictly speaking Bengali) spread.

Next we headed towards the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery. This monastery is famous because of a Bhutanese divine madman who used unconventional teaching methods to create awareness on Buddhist teachings . As per legend, women used to seek blessings from the divine madman named Drupka Kunley in form of sex. He wanted to spread the message that a pure monks life can be lead even by not following celibacy. He is also referred to as the 'fertility saint' and he was the one who introduced the phallus painting as a religious symbol to ward of evil.Our car went through the small Chimi Lhakhang village. There are not too many houses in the village but all have paintings of phallus on their walls. There are shops selling wooden phallus souvenirs.

To reach the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery we had to trek a little. The monastery is pretty simple and has a big prayer wheel at the entrance. There is also a small ground where there are benches for visitors to sit and relax. The place is also very windy. Far away we could see the vast green fields and the hills.
Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang village

Chimi Lhakhang

Short trek to Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang


Layers in agriculture at Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang village

Wooden handicrafts shops

Paintings of holy phallus on walls of houses


Paintings of holy phallus on walls of houses
Chimi Lakhang

On the way back we crossed the Dochulla Pass once more but did not stop since we took the same road in the morning. Just before entering Thimpu we saw the Simtokha Dzong but we did not enter. It is a small dzong and currently it is the Dzongkha ( the national language of Bhutan )language learning institute.

Simtokha Dzong

On the way we stopped at a good vantage point from where the city of Thimpu looked magical in the evening sun light. We reached hotel and called it a day.

Thimpu while returning back

Thimpu city from a view point

We kept aside the next day in Thimpu for relaxing and shopping. We wanted to absorb the vibes of Thimpu by just being in Thimpu and doing nothing. Sometimes that is so energizing.

Do watch our vlog on Punakha. Do LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and SHARE to show us that you love.



Important Information:
Places we covered in the same day tour to Punakha and back
1)Dochulla Pass
2)Druk Wangyal Lhakhang
3) Punakha Dzong
4) Chimi Lhakhang
5) Lobesa Village
6) Simtokha Monastery

Car charges for the entire trip: 3500 Ngultrum

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