Our first full day in Bhutan began with a trip to Tango Buddhist University in the mountains surrounding Thimphu. The city of Thimphu is the largest community in Bhutan, boasting about 90,000 residents. In the mountains surrounding the city are many monasteries, this one founded in the 17th century.
The hike to the stupa, temple, and monastery was hard. Although the path was built by monks in the past two years, the climb was steep. It took us about forty-five minutes to make the trek to the top through thick forest and in a canopy of trees.
The monastery and university is run by the realized incarnation of the original founder of the university, a boy about 16 years old. We were allowed to sit in the room while the monks chanted a Four Thoughts mantra with the use of drums, horns, and cymbals. Sitting in his seat at the front of the group was the bespeckled young man. Walking around the room was a monk who kept the other monks singing and chanting without slouching or falling asleep.
Namgay explained that this young boy, the head of the University, was found at the age of about three years old when he was brought to the temple and told the monks that he had hidden a lash in a secret place in the chanting room. The monks had to pry open some wooden boards and found the lash stowed there nearly 500 years before. Wow.
After leaving the temple, we headed back to town for a quick lunch and then onto watch archery competitions in the archery grounds in Thimphu. Four teams competed: 2 teams with compound bows, and 2 teams with traditional bows and arrows. The target was easily 150 yards away and was no more than about one foot wide by two feet tall. Each time someone hit the target, the group would sing a song. This competition was awesome to watch.
Soon after, we spent about 45 minutes at the handicraft market across the Paro River. Later we traveled to the Thimphu Stupa and to the new construction of a 100 meter Buddha, and finally to see the national animal, the Takin.
Our day was full of surprises, interesting interactions, and LOTS to see and do. I realize that I cannot do justice to the travels in this blog and will attempt a more detailed description of events in another location.
In the meantime, enjoy the photos….more tomorrow!