Thimphu being the capital and the largest city in Bhutan, it is also a popular tourist destination. It is one of the few highest national capitals in the world in terms of elevation. The city is built on the hilly slopes while the adjoining valley houses the important buildings like the Tashichho Dzong, the King’s Palace, the High Court and the Great Buddha Dordenma looks upon Thimphu from above the mountain. Among the many rivers of Bhutan, The Wang Chhu also known as the Thimphu Chhu flows through the district of Thimphu. Popular but unique, busy yet serene, Thimphu is thus an ideal destination to suit every taste.
Vajrayana Buddhism is the major and the prominent religion in Bhutan. People here are highly religious and are seen to abide by every sacred rites and command. Chortens (stupas), Lhakhangs (monastery or temple), Dzongs (fortress) with religious significance, and prayer wheels and prayer flags are found everywhere and are among the various man-made structures that are enchanting and intriguing just like the natural beauty of this region. Thimphu has all of it.
The bountiful nature has hurled its innumerable treasures on Bhutan and Thimphu is capital of this kingdom. Extended along the Wang Chhu valley and the surrounding hills this Dzongkha (district) is a perfect blend of modern buildings with the traditional touch in between the ancient Lhakhangs and dzongs. While man creates beautiful monuments, mother nature beautifies the landscape. Thus in ideal harmony stays the man and nature.
I knew that the revered Royal family holds the position next to God. I too had equal admiration for the Royal family even before visiting this nation. And once I had the opportunity to know the public sentiment regarding the King and Queen I was even more entranced. On my way to Thimphu, I was listening to many stories of His Highness and his work for his people. I was in awe of everything. It seemed like a fairy tale where there was a peaceful nation ruled by a benevolent king.
Somewhere deep in my heart, I developed a secret wish to see the King, Queen and the little Prince. I kept on asking our guide, Lakey about the Royal family and he happily answered and also added the story of the Royal Lineage. (Read my previous post on Bhutan.) The Royal Palace was just beside the Tashichho Dzong and I so wished to see the royal family there. The present king His Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the fifth king of the Wangchuck dynasty.
In ancient times after the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who unified Bhutan as a nation, there were much disturbance and civil wars within regions. This is when Ugyen Wangchuck, the descendant of Pema Lingpa (a renowned Buddhist saint) and an aristocrat from Bumthang region came into power subjugating all national disturbances and internal feuds.
He was the first king of this Kingdom from the Wangchuck dynasty followed by the second king Jigme Wangchuck, third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the present and the fifth king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, first introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness along with the drafting of the constitution of Bhutan. He was the king of the people just like his predecessors. The present king too, following the footsteps of his father leads his nation as a father figure.
The Royal Palace, Dechencholing Palace is situated beside the Tashichho Dzong. The palace was built during the period of the third king. My secret wish to see the royal family in the palace was still dancing on my head when I came to know that the present royal family stays in Samteling Palace at another place in Thimphu. At once my wishful thoughts evaporated and I concentrated on the other places of interest.
Among many other important monuments, I felt the Buddha viewpoint to be the iconic landmark of Thimphu. The enormous Gold gilded, Bronze statue of the Buddha is seated on the top of the hill overlooking the Thimphu district. The Great Buddha Dordenma statue is built on the ruins of the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, an ancient ruler of this region. The statue of the Shakyamuni has 125000 smaller statues of gold gilded, bronze Buddha within it. It is said that this statue fulfilled the ancient prophecy of Guru Padmasambhava. This huge statue can be seen from a distance while approaching Thimphu, through the twist and turns of the serpentine road.
A strange tranquillity prevailed in this vast compound on such a great height with the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the Great Buddha Dordenma looking down upon you. It was a feeling of bliss to be within the clouds that touch the highest mountains and pours its holy water in the form of blessings. In this religious nation, every destination felt to be holy and blessed.
So was the holy destination of Changangkha Lhakhang which an important religious destination in Thimphu. Our guide, Lakey said that every child born in Thimphu is taken to this temple to get the blessings of the protector deity Tamdrin. Some parents get the names of their newborns from this holy temple. People also pray here for fast healing and better health. We saw a couple carrying their kid to this temple with medical channels still on her hand. This sight of the sick child in so much pain troubled me and all others present. I too prayed for her to get well soon.
The Zilukha Nunnery was another holy destination very close to here. This small nunnery is for the lady monks. Here we met a young, adorable and curious monk. Her eager eyes were following us as we were following other disciples in their way of Pradakshina around the small monastery. At last, she gave a smile to start the conversation. No sooner we replied she had dozens of questions – “Where are you come from? How long do you stay in Bhutan? Do you like Bhutan? How is your nation? What do you do?” and so on went her questions. She has been staying in this nunnery since the age of 12. Her village is somewhere near.
I also asked her name but my forgetful mind again played the trick and I do not remember the name of this curious little friend now. But I have some beautiful pictures of her and the experience which will remain as part of my memory for long long time. Our Thimphu days were thus a combination of scenic mountains, cityscape, holy sites, zoo and interesting peoples. I had the rest of Bhutan to be explored and Thimphu as the prelude was interesting enough to keep us hooked for the rest of the journey. Stay with me to visit our next destination in my Bhutan series.