After a long journey into Bhutan, we were excited to finally be in Thimphu, the country’s capital. Per our planned itinerary, our first day was supposed to be a bit relaxed but wonderful unplanned events filled our day.
Our arrival in Thimphu happened to coincide with its Dromchoe Festival, one of the most sacred festivals in Bhutan. We are not scheduled to go to a traditional festival until few days later in Bumthang Valley, so it came as a delightful surprise when our guide told us that we were also going to this one.
Bhutanese, young and old alike, arriving in Tashichho Dzong (Fortress), Thimpu’s administrative and religious center, where the festival is held every autumn (the date changes each year but falls either in September or October).
Tens of thousands of people packed the courtyard of the Tashichho Dzong to witness Thimphu Dromchoe, a day long festival that dates back from the 17th century to honor Palden Lhamo, the chief protective deity of Bhutan.
We could have wiggled our way through the crowd for a closer view of the performances but we were so overwhelmed by the beautiful sea of colorful crowds that we found ourselves more fascinated in watching them than the perfomance. (We had a chance to focus on the performances in two other festivals we later attended.)
Attending the festival is part of the Bhutanese spiritual devotion. They believe that those who attend are bestowed blessings and gain spiritual merits. (This festival was followed 3 days later by an even bigger 3-day Tsechu festival. It was a busy but auspicious time for the locals).
A parting shot with our young friends, who were also so sweet to obtain a special permission for us to enter the temple, which was not open to the public at that time because high government and religious officials were in there (one of the girls was a daughter of an official). The temple housed a beautiful huge Buddha that was two-stories high. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos (as were in all temples in Bhutan.)
The Buddha Point (Buddha Dordenma) While driving around Bhutan, we noticed this statue of Buddha sitting high on a mountaintop. We didn’t know about the existence of this giant Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, until we arrived in Thimphu.
To our delight, our guide Leki took us to the statue. We learned that it was newly constructed and is now the largest seating Buddha in the world. It is meant to bestow blessings, peace and happiness to all sentient beings. While the statue itself is finished, its based is yet to be completed. The base will house one thousand smaller version of the statue. The building of this giant statue is said to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.
The valley was nothing but rice fields, few farmhouses and a Dzong until the early 1960’s when Thimphu was appointed as the new capital of Bhutan.
Today, Thimphu is still very much quaint but is bustling city by Bhutanese standard. Small economical cars from India dominate the road. Commercial buildings blending modern and traditional architectures lined the streets.
Thimpu is the only capital city in the world without traffic lights. Several years ago, a traffic light was installed, however, the locals complained that it was too impersonal. Hence, the traffic police with their graceful gestures continue to direct the traffic.
Some shops and restaurants in Norzi Lam.
More about Bhutanese sports, artisans, and spiritual sites in our next post on Thimphu.