- TRASHICHOE DZONG (The Fortress of Auspicious Religion)
- HANDICRAFTS EMPORIUM
- NATIONAL MEMORIAL CHORTEN
- THE MOTITHANG TAKIN PRESERVE
Having entered Thimphu (population approx 81000) you will soon notice that it is unlike most capital cities in the world. There are no High rise buildings and all structures – even the Petrol pump are built according to traditional style.
The traffic density is Low and there are no traffic lights !! Traffic is directed by policemen, standing on highly decorated boxes, who employ elegant gestures to guide you forward.
There is one main street, Norzim Lam which leads to the town centre and the clock tower square with its adjoining hotels, shops and restaurants.
Though the valley was inhabited for years, Thimphu remained a village till the decision was taken to make it the country’s capital. Even so it retained its rural character till the 1970s but the population grew dramatically and it is now quite the happening place with several bars and even a couple of discos livening up the night life!!
The Trashichoe Dzong can be visited only after 5 pm on week days when the government offices close or during the day on Saturday and Sunday.
With its superb sense of proportion and space it carries an aura of real dignity. Its history dates back to the 13th century.
The entire Dzong was rebuilt after a fire in 1772 and the Earthquake of 1897 using traditional methods- planning without any blue prints (everything stems from the mind of the Architect) and building without using a single nail.
The Dzong originally housed the National Assembly along with the secretariat and the Kings Throne room. The northern Section serves as the summer residence of the Je Khempo and the central monk body.
Unlike other Dzongs, this one has three entrances: one for the common folk, leading to the administrative establishment; another to the monastic section is whose courtyard the Tsechu (festival) is performed every year and the third only for Royalty.
Unless you have official business you can only enter the monastic section to visit the main Lhakhang through the vast court yard.
There is a large government run emporium close to the National Institute of Zorig Chusum, which deals with exquisite handicrafts, traditional arts and jewelry; Gho and Kira, the national dress of Bhutanese men and women, are available in this emporium. The town has many other privately owned emporiums which deal with thangkas, paintings, masks, brassware, antique jewellery, painted lama tables known as choektse, drums, Tibetan violins and so forth.
The building of this chorten was originally the idea of Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (“the father of modern Bhutan”), who had wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, but was unable to give shape to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state. After His Majesty’s untimely death in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to peace.
It is an impressive monument with its golden spires shining in the sun, its bells tinkling in the wind and an endless procession of elderly people circling around it. For many, this is the focus of their daily worship and people circumambulate the chorten throughout the day. There are no mortal remains of the King inside the Chorten. There is only a photograph draped in ceremonial scarves on the ground floor. The ceilings of the small porches that grace all four sides of the Chorten are painted on the south with the mandala of the Buddha Ratnasambhava, on the west with that of Hayagriya, on the north with the mandala of Phurba and on the east with that of Vajrasattava. The Memorial Chorten is an excellent introduction to Tantric Buddhism.
The wild life preserve in Thimpu is a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan. Originally a mini-zoo, it was converted into a preserve when it was discovered that the animals refrained from inhabiting the surrounding forest (13)even when set free.. The King of Bhutan believed that it was improper for a Buddhist country to confine animals for religious and environmental reasons, so he ordered the closure of the mini-zoo and the release of the animals into the forest. However, the Takin remained rooted to the town and were seen straying in the streets of Thimpu in search of fodder. Hence, an exclusive preserve was created for them to live freely
Dochu La offers possibly one of the best views of the eastern Himalayas. The pass lies at 10150ft /3100m.
The top is unlike that of any other pass you will encounter here or for that matter anywhere in the world.
The road bifurcates forming a large Island which is populated not by people or animals but by striking Chortens.
There are a 10 Chortens in 3 tiers of 45, 36 and 27 circumscribing a single larger Chortens. Constructed as recently as 2004. This group is known as the Druk Wangyel Chortens or Chortens of the Victory of the Druk Gyalpo.
The building of these Chortens was initiated by Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk when her husband , the fourth king traveled to the South East of the country in December 2003 leading his Army against insurgents from India. These insurgents had set up camps in the jungles of South east Bhutan and were using Bhutanese territory to launch hit and run attacks on targets in India as part of their separatist agenda.
The queen picked Dochu La as the site for the construction of a Chortens as it was a visible symbol of prayers to the deities to protect their country.
The area was blessed by the Je Khempo and the intricate work of Chorten building began.
When the Chorten is around a meter tall, an opening is made in the ground and offerings of grain and a bronze vessel filled with butter are put in. The most important stage is the installation of the sokshing or life tree, a symbolic linking of heaven and earth within the Chorten. This is a square- sectioned long pole made (!4)from wood. It is painted red and prayers in Gold are inscribed on all four sides along its length. Sacred objects are then tied to the Sokshing which is wrapped in silk and placed inside the partially complete Chorten – in this case offerings were made by different generations of the Royal family as well as by the Bhutanese people.