In the morning of 2 Oct, our group woke up early and was ready by 4:30 am to go to Tashi Chhoe Dzong to witness the unveiling of a large thondrol (a large religious painting that can be as large as a 5-storey building, normally of Sakyamuni Buddha or Guru Rinpoche).
Upon arriving at the Dzong, we realized that the unveiling was not happening that morning because the Chief Abbot was at the Buddha Dordenma, a huge Buddha statue that overlooks the Thimphu Valley. We proceeded to the large Buddha. I personally was very excited cause I could see this Buddha looming on the hill in the distance from my hotel room.
As we drove on the snaking road towards the top of the hill, we could see Thimphu city lights glittering in the distance. (I’m such a sucker for city lights).
As we get closer to the top, the road started to get crowded with pilgrims and monks making their way to the Budha in the pre-sunrise morning. Thick fog (or clouds) surrounded the hill, making the 51m-tall Buddha a beautiful mysterious captivating sight.
Our group stood on one side feeling the chill of below 10-degree weather, while also being mesmerized by the sight in front of us. There were up to 5000 pilgrims and monks, clad in saffron threads, making their way that morning.
Upon reaching the side facing the front of the Buddha, the pilgrims performed their prostrations.
Our group, already feeling the energy of the people and the site, followed soon and went into our meditation. I’ve visited many giant Buddha statues, but this was the first time I could feel the presence of an actual large Divine presence, sitting atop the hill, overlooking the valley below.
Large tents were put together for the thousands of pilgrims. They were there that morning to listen for the last time to the 70th Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot, readings of the 108 sutras before he’s replaced by his next successor next year.
Pilgrims continued to come by ascending the main steps overlooking the valley. The shy morning sun and the low-hanging clouds made the sight a magnificent one.
A Bhuthanese prostration involves a series of movements. They clasp their hands in prayer position and place them above the forehead, in front of the throat, and the heart while standing, and bending all the way down in prostration with the head on the ground. This is repeated 3 times.
The 3 levels where the hands are placed represent the ultimate desire to attain the body (ku), speech (sung), and mind (thug) of a Buddha.
Butter lamps are lighted so that wishes may be fulfilled, just like prayer candles.
The 51m-tall Buddha Dordenma statues are surrounded by Dakinis or celestial beings. The statue is made in China, separated into pieces, shipped to Bhutan and assembled in Thimphu.
This gentleman was one of the few gentlemen who went around the grounds with a tin can of burnt Juniper Leaves and local hand-rolled incense. People come up to him to cleanse their malas and themselves in the smoke of this natural incense. This burnt Juniper leaves is probably the strongest incense I’ve ever experienced. The vibration of my mala was greatly increased after a few seconds of being immersed in the smoke. The gentleman was such a lovely soul. He commented on my camera and we exchanged a few words before parting ways. Small connections like this is why I love traveling.
At the end of our visit, we descended down the hundreds of steps, seemingly to go down below the clouds.
My heart was already so full and enchanted by the beauty of this country, and it was only Day 2. To be in Thimphu on that day and to have the opportunity to listen to the Je Khenpo reciting the sutras among the thousands of Bhutanese pilgrims was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Journey Back to Mother’s Womb