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Bhutan Thimphu and Punakha

Festival of Tshechu Thimphu, dzongs, Temple of the Divine Madman

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September 21st Bhutan

A relaxed breakfast was followed by a drive through Thimphu to Taschichoedzong, a Buddhist monastery/ fortress on the northern edge of Thimphu, on the west bank of the Wang Chuu. Taschichoedzong (བཀརཤིས་ཆོས་རཛོང) is traditionally the seat of the Drug Desi (Dharma Raja), the head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907. Taschicho-dzong has been the seat of the government since 1952 and presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, the secretariat and ministries of home affairs and finance. Other government departments are housed in buildings nearby. The original Thimphu dzong (Do-Ngön Dzong, or Blue Stone Dzong) was constructed in 1216 by Lama Gyalwa Lhanapa (1164-1224), founder of the Lhapa branch of the Drikung Kagyu, at the place where Dechen Phodrang Monastery now stands on a ridge above the present Tashichö-dzong. In 1641 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Rinpoche) took the Dzong from the Lhapa Kagyu, renamed it Tashichö-dzong and turned it into the main seat of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu and summer residence of the monastic body (sangha) headed by Shabdrung Rinpoche. However, finding it too small, he built another one, known as the lower Dzong. Most of the original dzong was destroyed by fire in 1772 and everything was moved to the new dzong by the 16th Desi, Sonam Lhudrup, and 13th Je Khenpo, Je Yonten Taye, who named the new Dzong ‘Sonamchö-dzong’. Following the death of the Desi it was renamed Tashichö-dzong. It was damaged during an earthquake in 1897 and rebuilt in 1902. In 1962 the Dzong was rebuilt in traditional style using neither nails nor written plans by the 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as the seat of Government. Only the central Utse tower, Lhakhang Sarp (New Temple), and main Gönkhang (Protector Temple) remain from the earlier Dzong. After completion in 1968, it was consecrated by the 66th Je Khenpo Yonten Tarchin; the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje; and Je Kudre, Jamyang Yeshe.
The dzong is an impressively large structure, surrounded by well- kept lawns and beautiful gardens. As Bhutan’s main festival, Tsechu, was on this week (19th-21st Sept 18) the car park was very busy. This festival is also a national holiday and a day that most people like to watch the festivities. Traditionally it marks the move of the monk body from Thimphu to Punakha, a warmer town where they overwinter. Although busy we were able to park and joined the crowd walking past the dzong into the main courtyard. The ‘guards’ are in fact volunteer soldiers (no Bhutanese are conscripted, but many volunteer their services for a period of time). This year the royal family had already moved to Punakha and were watching the festivities there. However, the main Abbot was very visible. We found some excellent seats and settled to watch the festival.

The Thimphu Tshechu (Tsechu) festival involves Mask or Cham dances, performed in the large courtyard of the Tashichhoe-Dzong in Thimphu during the 4-day Tsechu festival, held Autumn (19-21 Sept). Tsechu=10th, so it starts on the 10th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, although it is performed in each district in Bhutan at slightly different days (depending on whether the 10th day starts, is the centre or ends it); Thimphu Tsechu and Paro Tsechu are the most popular. Thimphu Tsechu is generally attended by the Royal family and always by the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. The colourfully costumed, masked dances are typically are moral vignettes, or based on the life of the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher Padmasambhava and other saints. It is a religious folk dance of Drukpa Buddhism, established c1670. Tsechus are a series of dances performed by monks/ dance troupes to honour deeds Padmasambahva/ Guru Rinpoche.
The cham dance is a lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. The dances offer moral instruction eg compassion for sentient beings, and are held to bring merit to whoever watches them. Cham dances are considered a form of meditation and an offering to the gods. The leader of the cham is typically a musician, keeping time using percussion instruments like cymbals/ drums, or a dramyin (type of lute). Chams often depict incidents from the life of Padmasambhava, the 9th century Nyingmapa teacher, and other saints.
The great debate of the Council of Lhasa between the two principal dialecticians, Moheyan and Kamala!"la is depicted in a cham dance once held annually at Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai. In Bhutan, the dances are performed during an annual religious festival known as Tshechu. The Cham is performed by monks, nuns, and locals, although The Royal Academy of Performing Arts is now the main body which promotes the preservation of the culture of Cham and the dances. Although originating in Tibet (and Tibetans still perform the cham dance to large audiences during the Monlam Prayer Festival), the current situation in Tibet means that purer forms are more common in Bhutan. Tshechu (Dzongkha ཚས་བཅ༦།, literally “Day Ten”) are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each dzongkhag (district) of Bhutan on the 10th day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar. The month depends on the place. Tshechus are religious festivals of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Early Buddhism in Bhutan/Tibet
The Kagyü school, aka Oral Lineage/ Whispered Transmission, is one of six main schools (chos lugs) of Himalayan/Tibetan Buddhism. The central teaching of Kagyu is the doctrine of Mahamudra, "the Great Seal". The early Kagyu tradition soon gave rise to a bewildering number of independent sub-sects. The principle Dagpo Kagyu lineages existing today are Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu and Drukpa Lineage. Kagyu begins in Tibet with Marpa Lotsawa (1012–1097) who trained as a translator with lotsawa Drogmi Sh#kya Yeshe (993–1050), and then travelled to India and Nepal in search of religious teachings. His principal gurus were the siddhas N#ropa (from whom he received the "close lineage" of mah#mudr# and tantric teachings) and Maitr"p#da (from whom he received the "distant lineage" of mah#mudr#). N#ropa codified the Six Doctrines or Dharmas of Naropa, instructions to practice different Buddhist highest yoga tantras, which use energy-winds, energy- channels and energy-drops of the subtle vajra-body in order to achieve the four types of bliss, the clear light mind and the state of Mah#mudr#. The Mah#mudr# lineage of Tilopa and his disciple N#ropa is called the "direct or "close lineage" as it is said that Tilopa received this Mah#mudr# realisation directly from the Dharmak#ya Buddha Vajradhara. The "distant lineage" of Mah#mudr# is said to have come from the Buddha in the form of Vajradara through incarnations of the bodhisattvas Avalokite!vara and Mañju!r"to Saraha, through Maitripada to Marpa. According to accounts, on his third journey to India Marpa met Ati!a (982–1054) who later came to Tibet and founded the Kadam lineage. Together Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa are known as "Mar-Mi-Dag Sum" and considered the founders of the Kagyu school of Buddhism in Tibet. Marpa established his "seat" at Drowolung, Lhodrak in southern Tibet just north of Bhutan. Marpa married the Lady Dagmema, and took 8 concubines. Collectively they embodied the main consort and eight wisdom dakini in the mandala of his Yidam (tantra), Hevajra. Marpa wanted to entrust the transmission lineage to his oldest son, Darma Dode, following the usual Tibetan practice of the time to transmit of lineages of esoteric teachings via hereditary lineage (father-son or uncle-nephew), but his son died young, so he passed his main lineage on through Milarepa. Darma Dode's incarnation as Indian master Tiphupa became important for the future development of Kagyu in Tibet. Marpa's four most outstanding students were known as the "Four Great Pillars”.
1. Milarepa (1040–1123), born Gungthang province, western Tibet, the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet's yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of enlightenment in one lifetime became the holder of Marpa's meditation or practice lineage.
2. Ngok Choku Dorje (1036–1102), principal recipient of Marpa's explanatory lineages and important in Marpa's transmission of the Hevajra Tantra. Ngok Choku Dorje founded Langmalung temple in Bumthang, Bhutan. The Ngok branch of Marpa Kagyu was an independent lineage carried on by his descendants at least up to the time of the 2nd Drukchen Gyalwang Kunga Paljor (1428-76) who received this transmission, and 1476 when Go Lotsawa composed the Blue Annals.
3. Tshurton Wangi Dorje (Tshurton Wangdor), principal recipient of Marpa's transmission of the teachings of the Guhyasamāja Tantra. Tshurton's lineage eventually merged with the Shalu Monastery tradition and subsequently passed this down to the Gelug founder Je Tsongkhapa.
4. Meton Tsonpo, one of Marpa's main disciples
Tshechus are large social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people of remote, spread out villages. Large markets also congregate at the fair locations, leading to brisk commerce. The Thimphu and Paro tshechu are the biggest in terms of participation and audience. The focal point of the tshechus are Cham dances. These costumed, masked dances typically are moral vignettes, or based on incidents from the life of the 9th century Nyingma teacher Padmasambhava and other saints. Most tshechus also feature the unfurling of a thongdrel - a large appliqué thangka typically depicting a seated Padmasambhava surrounded by holy beings, the mere viewing of which is said to cleanse the viewer of sin. The thongdrel is raised before dawn and rolled down by morning. Because tshechus depend on the availability of masked dancers, registered dancers are subject to a fine if they refuse to perform during festivals. Padmasambhava, the great scholar, visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th century and 9th century. He used to convert opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods. He visited Bhutan to aid king Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava performed a series of dances in the Bumthang Valley to restore the health of the king. The grateful king helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Padmasambhava organized the first tshechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the Cham dances depicting the glory of Padmasambhava. The dance schedule for each day of the four-day festival is set out and generally (though not exclusively) consists of the following dances.
● 1st day: Dance of the Four Stags (Sha Tsam); Dance of the Three kinds of Ging (Pelage Gingsum); Dance of the Heroes (Pacham), Dance of the Stags and Hounds (Shawo Shachi), Dance with Guitar (Dranyeo Cham)
● 2nd day: The Black Hat Dance (Shana), Dance of the 21 black hats with drums (Sha nga ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg), Dance of the Drums from Dramitse (Dramitse Ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg), Dance of the Stag and Hounds (Shawa Shachi)
● 3rd day: Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag), Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Tungam), Dance of the Rakshas and the Judgement of the Dead (Ragsha Mangcham)
● Last day: Dance of Tamzhing Monastery, Dance of the Lords of the Cremation grounds (same dance as day 3), Dance of the Ging and Tsoling (Ging Dang Tsoling), Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava (Guru Tshen Gye).
The last day of the four-day festival also marks the unfurling of the Thongdrel, a very large scroll painting or thangka, which is unfurled with intense religious fervour, early in the morning. This painting measuring 30×45 metres has the images of Padmasambhava at the centre flanked by his two consorts and his eight incarnations. Devotees who gather to witness this occasion offer obeisance in front of the Thongdrel seeking blessings. Folk dances are performed on the occasion. Before sunset, the painting is rolled up and kept in the Dzong before it is displayed the next year.

After watching all the dances and music, we headed out back to Thimphu where we passed several well known buildings, the Institute Zorig Chusum, Institute of Tibetology and Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre.
Namgyal Institute Tibetology houses a vast collection of rare Buddhist books and manuscripts, as well as 200 Buddhist icons. The building is a good example of Tibetan architecture. It has one of the world's largest collections of books and rare manuscripts of Mahayana Buddhism, religious art and finely executed silk embroidered Thangkas. National Institute of Zorig Chusum http://nizc.gov.bt is the centre for Bhutanese Art education established by the Government with the objective of preserving the culture and tradition of Bhutan by training students in 13 traditional art forms. Painting is the main theme, with 4–6 years of training in Bhutanese traditional art forms. The curricula cover drawing, painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue carving. Images of Buddha are a popular painting done here. National Handicrafts emporium is a large government run emporium close to Zorig Chusum, which sells handicrafts, traditional arts, painted lama tables known as choektse, drums, Tibetan violins and jewellery. Gho and Kira, the national dress of Bhutanese men and women, are available.

Bhutanese Dress
Bhutan's traditional dress is one of the most distinctive and visible aspects of the country. It is de rigueur for Bhutanese to wear national dress in schools, government offices and on formal occasions. Men wear a gho, a long robe similar to the Tibetan chuba. The Bhutanese hoist the gho to knee length and hold it in place with a woven cloth belt called a kera wound tightly around the waist, and the large pouch formed above it traditionally used to carry a bowl, money and the makings of doma. The gho has white internal sleeves which are pulled through to create long white cuffs. According to tradition, men should carry a small knife called a dozum at the waist. Traditional footwear is knee-high, embroidered leather boots, but these are now worn only at festivals. Most Bhutanese men wear long wool socks, leather shoes or trekking boots. Ghos come in a wide variety of patterns, though often they have plaid or striped designs. Flowered patterns are taboo, and solid reds and yellows are avoided because these are colours worn by monks. Historically, Bhutanese wore the same thing under their gho that a Scotsman wears under his kilt, but today it's usually a pair of shorts or thermal underwear. Formality in Thimphu suggest that legs should be uncovered until winter, defined as the time the monks move to Punakha. Formal occasions, including a visit to the dzong, require a scarf called a kabney that identifies a person's rank. The kabney has to be put on correctly so it hangs in exactly the right way. In dzongs a dasho or someone in authority carries a long sword called a patang. Ordinary citizens wear a kabney of unbleached white silk and each level of official wears a different coloured scarf: saffron for the king and Je Khenpo; orange for lyonpos; blue for National Council and National Assembly members; red for those with the title Dasho and senior officials; green for judges; white with a central red stripe for dzongdags (district governors); and white with red stripes on the outside for a gup (elected leader of a village). Our guide, on questioning, admitted he only wore the gho for guiding, then changed into jeans! Women wear a long floor-length dress called a kira, a rectangular piece of brightly coloured cloth that wraps around the body over a Tibetan-style silk blouse called a wonju. The kira is fastened at the shoulders with silver hooks called koma and at the waist with a cloth or silver belt. Over is worn a short, open, jacket-like garment called a toego. Women often wear large amounts of jewellery. The whole ensemble is beautiful and Bhutanese women are very elegant. The kira may be made from cotton or silk and may have a pattern on one or both sides. For everyday wear, women wear a kira made from striped cloth with a double-sided design, and on more formal occasions a kira with an embellished pattern woven in. The most expensive kiras are kushutaras (brocade dresses), made of handspun, handwoven Bhutanese cotton, embroidered with various colours and designs in raw silk or cotton thread. When visiting dzongs, women wear a cloth sash called a rachu over their shoulders or simply over their left shoulder in the same manner as men wear a kabney.
As we left our guide pointed out the Motithang Takin Preserve Motithang district of Thimphu, 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 even when set free. The reason for declaring takin the national animal of Bhutan on 25 November 2005 (Budorcas taxicolor) is attributed to a legend of the animal’s creation in Bhutan in the 15th C by Lama Drukpa Kunley. Takin (cow/ chamois/gnu goat), national animal of Bhutan a goat-antelope found in the eastern Himalayas. Four subspecies exist; Mishmi takin, Shaanxi/ golden takin, Tibetan/Sichuan takin and Bhutan takin.
Recent mitochondrial research shows a close relationship to Ovis (sheep), with the physical similarity to a muskox a good example of convergent evolution. A Tibetan saint, Drukpa Kunley, popularly called “The Divine Madman” is credited with creating the takin with unique features. Drukpa Kunley was requested by the people of Bhutan during one of his religious lectures to conjure a miracle before them. He agreed to do so provided he was fed a whole cow and a whole goat for lunch. Once served, he devoured both animals and left out the bones. He took out the head of the goat and fixed it to the skeleton of the cow and with a snap, he created a live animal, with the head of the goat and the body of the cow. The animal sprang up and moved on to the meadows to graze. The animal was then given the name dong gyem tsey (takin). Since then this animal has been a common sight in the hills of Bhutan. Because of the religious connection, the animal has been adopted as the national animal of Bhutan. When takin were confined in the "mini-zoo", the King of Bhutan felt that it was improper for a Buddhist country to confine animals and ordered the release of the animals and the closure of the mini-zoo. To everyone’s surprise, the takin refused to leave and strayed in the streets of Thimphu and thus the takin preserve came to be established in the Motithang neighborhood. The preserve also holds a few sambar and barking deer. Motithang Takin Reserve plans to expand the collection of the preserve by introducing other rarely seen animals of Bhutan such as the red panda, and Himalayan serow. It's worthwhile taking the time to see these oddball mammals. The best time to see them is when they gather near the fence to feed, which is luckily as we drove past.

Buddhism in Bhutan Part 1
Padmasambhava (lit. Lotus-Born), aka Guru Rinpoche, was an 8th-century Indian Buddhist master. Although there was a historical Padmasambhava, little is known of him apart from helping the construction of the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet at Samye, at the request of Trisong Detsen, and shortly thereafter leaving Tibet due to court intrigues. A number of legends have grown around Padmasambhava's life and deeds, and he is widely venerated as a "second Buddha" by adherents of Tibetan Buddhism in Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, and the Himalayan states of India. In Tibetan Buddhism he is a character of a genre of literature called terma. The Nyingma school considers Padmasambhava to be a founder of their tradition. One of the earliest sources for him as an historical figure is the Testament of Ba (9th or 10th c), which records the founding of Samye Monastery under the reign of Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (755–797/804).
Other texts show that Padmasambhava's tantric teachings were being taught in Tibet during the 10th century. According to tradition, Padmasam-bhava was incarnated as an 8 year child in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oddiyana (Odisha in India). Padmasambhava's special nature was recognised by the childless local king of Oddiyãna and was chosen to take over the kingdom, but he left Oddiyana for northern parts of India. In Rewalsar, known as Tso Pema in Tibetan, he secretly taught tantric teachings to princess Mandarava, the local king's daughter. The king found out and tried to burn him, but when the smoke cleared he just sat there, still alive and meditating. Greatly astonished, the king offered Padmasambhava his kingdom and Mandarava. Padmasambhava and Mandarava went to Maratika Cave in Nepal to practice secret tantric consort rituals. They had a vision of buddha Amitãyus and achieved spiritual realisation. Both Padmasambhava and Mandarava are still believed to be alive and active in rainbow body form by their followers. Padmasambhava's other main consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, who reputedly hid his numerous termas in Tibet for later discovery, reached Buddhahood. Many thangkas and paintings show Padmasambhava with Mandarava on his right and Yeshe Tsogyal on his left. King Trisong Detsen, 38th king of the Yarlung dynasty and first Emperor of Tibet (742–797), invited Padmasambhava to Tibet to subdue demonic forces. According to tradition, Padmasambhava received the Emperor's wife, Yeshe Tsogyal, as a consort. He is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the 4 major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. "Nyingma" literally means "ancient," and is often referred to as "Nga'gyur" or the "early translation school" because it is founded on the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Tibetan, in the 8th century. The group particularly believes in hidden terma treasures. Monasteries with celibate monks and nuns, along with the practice of reincarnated spiritual leaders are later adaptations, though Padmasambhava is regarded as the founder of Samye Gompa, the first monastery in Tibet. Bhutan has many important pilgrimage places associated with Padmasambhava. The most famous is Paro Taktsang or "Tiger's Nest" monastery, built on a sheer cliff wall 500m above the floor of Paro valley. It was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup (stag tshang seng ge bsam grub) cave where he is said to have meditated in the 8th Century. He flew there from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal, whom he transformed into a flying tigress for the purpose of the trip.

As it was late morning we set off on the 77km drive to Punakha. Although this doesn’t sound far, the road through the mountains was extremely winding and it took 2' hours in the end. Not far from Thimphu was the Zilukha Anim Dratshang Buddhist Nunnery, also called Thangthong Dewachen, built in 1976 by the 16th emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo (King of the Fields), Drubthob Rikey Jadrel. Currently, the nunnery is home to about 60 nuns and is the largest in Bhutan. It has an interesting enclosed chorten in the main courtyard. Druthob Thangtong Gyalpo (aka Drubthob Chakzampa), was famous in the 15 century in the Tibetan Buddhist world for building iron bridges across large rivers. As a monk he had no money, so he persuaded pretty girls to sing and dance for money, and is regarded as the father of Tibetan Opera. (see Tibet section). Thangtong Gyalpo (1385–1464/85), aka Chakzampa "Iron Chain Maker”, Tsöndrü Zangpo "Excellent Persistence", and King of the Empty Plain. He was a pioneering civil engineer. He is considered a mind emanation of Padmasambhava and a reincarnation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. He founded the Iron Chain lineage of the Shangpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Thangtong Gyalpo is said to have built 58 iron chain suspension bridges around Tibet and Bhutan, several of which are still in use today. Associated with Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, and with the tradition of "mad yogis” known as nyönpa, Thang Tong Gyalpo is also known as a sorcerer character in the popular Tibetan story of and is believed to be the most widely travelled person in Tibetan history.

As we ascended we reached a check point where we had to produce our visa to show that we had been authorised to go to Punakha Dzonga. Continuing up we were amazed at the sheer number of prayer flags along and across the roads, some strung across valleys 100s of metres high. A prayer flag is a colourful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes, primarily to honour the deal. Prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon. In Bon, shamanistic Bonpo used primary-coloured flags in Tibet. Nepali Sutras, originally written on cloth banners, were transmitted to other regions of the world as prayer flags. Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Gautama Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. This was carried into Bhutan/Tibet by 800,and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040, where they were further modified. Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colours, arranged left to right in order: blue, white, red, green, yellow. The five colours represent the five elements and Five Pure Lights. Blue symbolises sky and space, white the air and wind, red fire, green water, and yellow earth. According to Traditional Tibetan (and so Bhutanese) medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. They do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; but the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all space. By hanging flags in high places the wind will carry the blessings of the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags,
which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. As life moves on and is replaced by new life, people renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old, as part of a great ongoing cycle.
At the top of Dochula Pass (3000m) we stopped for a break. Dochula Pass is a mountain pass in the Himalayas on the road from Thimpu to Punakha where 108 memorial chortens/ stupas, known as the Druk Wangyal Chortens have been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk (the Queen Mother). Apart from the chortens there is a monastery, Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built in honour of the 4th Druk Gyalpo (head of the state of Bhutan), Jigme Singye Wangchuck; the open grounds in front is a venue for the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. Strung along are Lung Dar (prayer flags). The pass is adjacent to the country's first Royal Botanical Park. The pass is located at an elevation of 3,150 m amidst the Eastern Himalayas. To the east the snow clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas are seen, among them Mt. Masanggang 7,158m, the highest peak in Bhutan, aka Mt. Gangkar Puensum. The road east of the pass runs steeply down for some distance and then takes a left turn towards Punakha. The pass was part of ancient trails between Thimphu and Punakha, such as DochuLa Nature Trail which begins at DochuLa cafe and Lumitsawa Ancient Trail that joins the main road at Lumitsawa. Both are sections of the original route. Sadly the weather was its normal mist, so we didn’t get much of a Himalaya view. After a pleasant walk around we headed down the other side of the pass until we reached Menchuna restaurant with the normal indifferent Bhutanese buffet, and a great view.

After lunch it was on down towards Punakha. We stopped at several vantage points to admire the scenery, mainly small pretty rivers and dragon’s back rice fields. Before reaching Punakha we turned off towards Lobesa village. As we drove down the smaller roads we had an idea of where we were headed thanks to the profusion of phallus decorations on walls. Yep, we parked in the car park to walk up to the Temple of the Divine Madman. This is Chimi Lhakhang, known as The Fertility Temple, a Buddhist monastery, idyllically placed on a rotund hill. The Lhakhang is located 7 km from Punakha near a village called Sopsokha from where a 20 minutes walk through agricultural fields of mustards and rice, leads to a hillock where the monastery and the chorten are situated. Prayer flags are lined all along the road from the tiny hamlet known as Yowakha, along a drain or stream to the monastery. All houses in the village have paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls. The temple was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, on the site blessed by the "Divine Madman", maverick saint Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529) who built a chorten on the site. In founding the site it is said that Lama Kunley subdued a dog-like demoness of DochuLa with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the small chorten now stands near the entrance to the Lhakhang. The stupa meditation hall, was constructed by the eccentric Yogi Drukpa Kunley, who blessed the entire grounds. Drukpa Kunley preached Buddhism is an unconventional manner, by way of song, comedy, and sex. He actively encouraged phallus symbols to be used throughout the design of the temple in paintings on the walls and flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eaves. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, embedded with a silver handle, that Kunley brought from Tibet. It is still used to bless visitors and pilgrims, especially women seeking to conceive. The monastery is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet, pledging that all who wish to conceive will find help at the temple. Thousands travel here in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a wang (blessing) from the saint. Couples with new-borns also visit so that a local lama (Buddhist teacher), can bestow a good name on the child, whilst eager travellers can ask lamas for their unique Bhutanese name. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 25 cm wooden phallus (erect penis). Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan are used to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip. The lama Kunley had used the hillock because of its round shape, like a female breast. The Lhakhang is of modest size, square in shape with a golden spire. It is a golden yellow roofed building. It has a row of prayer wheels and its exterior walls are embedded with slates carved with images of saints. The prayer hall inside the monastery has tantric paraphernalia, thangkas, bells, drums, horns, dorjis and a kangd. The statue of Kunley, in monk's robe, is centrally located at the altar, in a reclining position with a ceramic statue of his dog Sachi. Images of Zhabdrung, Sakyamuni Buddha and Chenresig are also deified in the monastery. Women who come seeking children get hit on the head by the presiding Lama with a 25 cm ivory, wood and bone phallus. They can also make the pilgrimage to get the name of a child to be born., by picking bamboo slips placed in the altar inscribed with names of boys and girls. It is said that the small chorten at the altar was made by Kunley himself. There are frescoes painted on the walls of the monastery depicting the Mad saint's colourful life. According to one legend Kunley was also known for his supernatural power to predicted the death of other lamas. Lama Kunley and his dog Sachi, whose statues are deified in the monastery, attained heaven.

Buddhism in Bhutan part 2
The Drukpa Lineage-.འབརག་པ་བཀའབརགྱུཡཏ, sometimes called Dugpa or Red Hat sect is a branch of the Kagyu school Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu school is one of the Sarma (New Translations) schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Within the Drukpa Lineage, there are further sub-sects. In Bhutan the Drukpa Lineage is the dominant state religion. The Drukpa lineage was founded in west Tibet by Tsangpa Gyare Yeshi Dorje (1161–1211), a student of Ling Repa, who mastered the Vajrayana practices of the mahamudra and Six Yogas of Naropa. As a tertön or "finder of spiritual relics", he discovered the text of the Six Equal Tastes, previously hidden by Rechung Dorje Drakpa, a student of Milarepa. While on a pilgrimage Tsangpa Gyare and his disciples witnessed a set of nine dragons (Tibetan: druk) roaring out of the earth and into the skies, as flowers rained down everywhere. From this incident they named their sect Drukpa. Also important in the lineage were the root guru of Tsangpa Gyare, Ling Repa and his guru, Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, who was in turn a principal disciple of Gampopa, one of Rechung Dorje Drakpa's main disciples. A prominent disciple of Tsangpa Gyare's nephew, Onre Darma Sengye, was Phajo Drugom Zhigpo (1208–1276) who in 1222 went to establish the Drukapa Kagyu teachings in the valleys of western Bhutan. The main disciples of Tsangpa Gyare, the first Gyalwang Drukpa, are in two categories: blood relatives and spiritual sons. His nephew, Onre Darma Sengye (1177–1237), ascended the throne at Ralung (Tibet), the main seat of the Drukpa lineage. Darma Sengye guided later disciples of Tsangpa Gyare, such as Gotsangpa Gonpo Dorje (1189– 1258), onto the path of realisation, thus becoming their guru as well. Darma Sengye's nephew and descendants held the seat at Ralung to continue the lineage.
Gyalwa Lorepa, Gyalwa Gotsangpa and Gyalwa Yang Gonpa (known as Gyalwa Namsum or Three Victorious Ones) led to new branches The followers of Gyalwa Lorepa became the 'Lower Drukpas', those of Gyalwa Gotsangpa the 'Upper Drukpas', and of Onre Darma Sengye the 'Middle Drukpas'. After the death of 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, in 1592, there were two rival candidates for his reincarnation. Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo, one of the candidates, was favoured by the King of Tsang and prevailed. His rival, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, went to Western Bhutan, unified the country and established Drukpa as the preeminent Buddhist school from Haa to Trongsa. The Drukpa Lineage was divided from that time on into the Northern Drukpa branch in Tibet headed by the Gyalwang Drukpa and the Southern Drukpa based in Bhutan and headed by the Shabdrung incarnations. Ever since Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal appointed Pekar Jungne as the 1st Je Khenpo, the spiritual head of all monasteries in Bhutan, successive Je Khenpos have acted to date as spiritual regents of Bhutan. The Southern Drukpa are led by the Je Khenpo (an elected office, not a tulku [reincarnation] lineage), who is the chief abbot of the Dratshang Lhentshog of Bhutan.
Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), aka Kunga Legpai Zangpo, Drukpa Kunleg (Divine Madman of Dragon Lineage was a monk (Mahamudra) in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as well as a famous poet. After undergoing training in Ralung Monastery under siddha Pema Lingpa, he introduced Buddhism to Bhutan and established the monastery of Chimi Lhakhang there in 1499. Drukpa Kunley was born into the branch of the noble Gya clan of Ralung Monastery in the Tsang region of western Tibet, descended from Lhabum, the brother of Tsangpa Gyare. His father was Rinchen Zangpo. He was nephew to the 2nd Gyalwang Drukpa and father of Ngawang Tenzin and Zhingkyong Drukdra. He was known for his crazy methods of enlightening others, mostly women, which earned him the title "The Saint of 5,000 Women". Among other things, women would seek his blessing in the form of sex. His intention was to show that it is possible to be enlightened, impart enlightenment, and still lead a very healthy sex life, which our guide parsed as “people in his time didn’t understand his religiousness”. He demonstrated that celibacy was not necessary for being enlightened. In addition, he wanted to expand the range of means by which enlightenment could be imparted, while adding new evolutionary prospects to the overarching tradition. He is credited with introducing the practice of phallus paintings in Bhutan and placing statues of them on rooftops to drive away evil spirits. Because of this power to awaken unenlightened beings, his penis is referred to as the "Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom" and he himself is known as the "fertility saint". For this reason women from all around the world visit his monastery to seek his blessing. Some of his most famous performances include urinating on sacred thankhas, stripping down naked or offering his testicles to a famous Lama. He is one of very few Buddhist teachers to almost always appear in Bhutanese paintings topless. It is known that Drukpa Kunley would not bless anyone who came to seek his guidance and help unless they brought a beautiful woman and a bottle of wine. His fertility temple, Chimi Lhakhang, is today filled with the weaved portable wine bottles. Visitors to the monastery are welcome to enjoy a short trek up a hill. The monastery is very modest, one smallish building, but it contains a wood-and-ivory lingam through which one can obtain blessings from the monk in residence. A small book contained photos of babies sent by women all over the world who had come here to help conceive. In theory, if you use the temple and have a baby, if it is a girl it should be called Chimi and if a boy called Lakhang (hence the prevalence of these names in Bhutan, even our guide’s sister-in-law had a baby this way).

After our walk to Chimi Lakhang we drove down to Punakha itself, a tiny town along the river. Close to the Dzongkha two rivers, the Pho (Father) Chhu (river/ water) and Mo (Mother) Chhu met, combining the blue Pho with the fertile brown Mo. The source of the Mo chu is in the northern hills of Lighsi and Laya in Bhutan and Tibet. The Po Chu is fed by glaciers in the Lunana region of Punakha valley. After the confluence of these two rivers, the river is known as Puna Tsang chu or Sankosh River and flows down through Wangdue Phodrang, crosses the Bhutan–India border at
Kalikhola and eventually meets the Brahmaputra River. Punakha valley has a pleasant climate with warm winters and hot summers. It 1200 m above sea level and owing to the favourable climate, rice grows very well here, as do bananas. Two major rivers in Bhutan, the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu, converge in this valley. Punakha Dzong is built at the confluence of these two rivers and is an especially beautiful sight on sunny days with sunlight reflecting off the water onto its white-washed walls. In addition to its structural beauty, Punakha Dzong is notable for containing the preserved remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan as well as a sacred relic known as the Ranjung Karsapani, an image of Avalokiteswara that miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey the founder of the Drukpa School when he was cremated.

Punakha Dzongkhag is linked with momentous occasions in Bhutanese history. It served as the capital of the country 1637-1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It is one of the most majestic structures in the country. In 2011, the wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and Jetsun Pema, was held at the Punakha Dzong.
A panoramic view of the Punakha Dzong,, at the confluence of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers
We crossed over the wooden covered bridge to access the dzong’s steep steps. A covered wooden cantilever bridge crossing the Mo Chu was built with the Dzong in the 17th century, but washed away by a flash flood in 1957. In 2008, a new wooden cantilever bridge in traditional style, with a free span of 55m was completed. A memorial honouring the 23 people who died in the dzong in the glacial floods of 1994 has been erected just outside. Inside was an outer courtyard surrounded by buildings and an inner one, again with buildings and the main temple straight ahead. Photos were allowed (though not inside the temple), but no video. Punakha Dzong, aka Pungtang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang (the palace of great happiness), is the administrative centre of Punakha District. Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637/8 it is the 2nd oldest and 2nd largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and tertön Pema Lingpa.
According to local legend, Padmasambhava prophesied that “a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant”. Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, found the peak of the hill, which appeared in the shape of trunk of an elephant as prophesied, and built the dzong in 1637-38. Another legend tells how Zowe Palep, the architect, had a dream after the Zhabdrung ordered him to sleep under a small structure which contained a statue of the Buddha, known as Dzong Chug "small dzong". In a 2nd dream, he had a vision of a palace for Guru Rinpoche, enabling him to conceive the plan for the dzong without paper and to build it. The dzong was consecrated in the name of Pungthang Dechen Phodrang. In 1639, a commemorative chapel was erected to house the arms seized from the Tibetans who were defeated by the Bhutanese on this spot. The Zhabdrung also set up a monastic order with 600 monks (brought from Cheri Gompa of upper Thimphu valley) and lived here till his death. The spire at the top of the utse (the dzong’s central tower) was added in 1676 by Gyaltsen Tenzin Rabgye, the abbot of the dzong. Further additions were made 1744-63, when Sherab Wangchuk was the chief Abbot of Bhutan. A large thangka known as chenma (great) thoundral of the Zhabdrung was donated to the Dzong by the Desi (ruler). This thangka is displayed during the annual tshechu. The 7th Dalai Lama donated the brass roof for the dzong.
The dzong is a six-storey structure with a central tower (utse) at an elevation of 1,200m with a scenic, mountainous background. The materials used in building the Dzong consisted of compacted earth, stones and timber in doors and windows. The dzong was constructed as an “embodiment of Buddhist values” and was one of the 16 dzongs built by the Zhabdrung during his rule 1594-1691. The dzong measures 180m long by 72m wide and has three docheys (courtyards). The defensive fortifications built in the dzong to protect from enemy attacks consist of a steep wooden stairway and a heavy wooden door that is closed at night. After the dzong suffered fire damage, a large prayer hall was added in 1986. Administrative offices of the dzong, a large, white-washed stupa and bodhi tree are located in the first courtyard. In the same courtyard, on the far left, are a mound of stones and a chapel dedicated to the queen of the n#gas. The residential quarters of the monks are located in the 2nd courtyard, with the utse intervening between the 1st and 2nd courtyards. There are two historic halls in this courtyard; one of Ugyen Wangchuk, who subsequently became King and another where the King was decorated in 1905 with the Order of the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire by John Claude White. The 3rd courtyard at the southernmost end of the dzong is where the remains of Pema Lingpa and Ngawang Namgyal are preserved. Machey Lakhang (machey=sacred embalmed body) in the 3rd courtyard has the well preserved embalmed body of the Zhabdrung. This Lakhang was rebuilt in 1995, but the casket containing the embalmed body was not opened, although it is visited by the King and Je Khenpo to seek blessing before assuming their offices. Flash floods from glacial lake outburst flooding the upper reaches of the valley, are a common occurrence in the Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers, and in the past caused flooding and damage to the dzong. Fires and earthquakes have further added to the problem. In 1996, flash floods in the Pho Chu river damaged the large stupa and caused several deaths. After major refurbishing carried out in the "zorig chusum tradition" (an ancient tradition of crafts in wood carving, masonry, metal work, painting), the Dzong has several new Lhakhangs, over 200 new religious images, and several other treasures including thangkas. A consecration “Rabney ceremony” performed by the Je Khenpo and the monks of the Dratshang (central monk body) was held in 2004. Note the murals depicting the life story of Buddha painted during the rule of the second druk desi. Large gilded statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung from the mid 18th century, and gilded panels on pillars are also here.
entrance steps; Second Courtyard
utse; First courtyard; Second courtyard; main temple; window detail; door detail
It was getting late into the afternoon and we finally drove to our hotel for the night, the Zangto Perli. http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-punakha/hotel-zangtho-pelri/?ctab=ca This nice hotel had an small attached shop where we could buy some local jewellery (a ring and bracelet for Emma and me).
From our hotel we had a great view of the Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan built above Po Chu river. The bridge is broad and built in a very nice way and you will be amazed to see that it doesn’t shake so much which can cause a sudden amount of panic among the tourists. The bridge connects the nearby villages., and the surrounding mountains on all the sides also gives a breathtaking view. Interestingly, despite the obvious bounty of the rivers, fishing is forbidden in Bhutan (unless you are the king, who is apparently above this law).

History of Bhutan part 2
Kingdom of Bumthang was one of several small kingdoms in the territory of modern Bhutan. The Kingdom of Bumthang is particularly notable among its many contemporary Bhutanese chiefdoms because it was here that Buddhism first took root in Bhutan. The kingdom contained several places relevant to important Bhutanese legends. The kingdom is the ancestral homeland of the House of Wangchuck, a local elite family that surpassed the erstwhile Tibetan aristocracy. During Bhutan's early history, Bumthang served as a locus of exile for both Tibetan and Indian rulers, and was also the home of Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa [1450–1521 a Bhutanese saint-siddha of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism]. King Sindhu Rāja was engaged in a war against King Nawuchhe, an Indian king to the south, during which he fell ill due to possession by a Bön demon. On advice, Sindhu Rāja invited Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) to exorcise the demon and cure his illness. On arrival, the saint requested a Tantric consort and the king offered his daughter Lhachig Bumden Tshomo (Menmo Tashi Kyeden). After capturing the demon and converting it to Buddhism, Guru Rinpoche cured the king who converted to Buddhism and founded several pilgrimage sites inc Kuje Temple. As a result, many mountains and deities worshipped by Bönpa were incorporated into local Buddhism. The king's daughter went to live in the cave of Guru Dorji Tsepa, and help the Guru in his religious activities. The decline of the Kingdom of Bumthang began with the consolidation of Bhutan by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1616. The Zhabdrung, fending off invasions from Tibet, established effective control of central/ eastern Bhutan, including Bumthang, after a series of battles through his lieutenant Chogyal Minjur Tenpa (1667–1680). Minjur Tenpa was the first Penlop of Trongsa (Tongsab), appointed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He was born in Tibet, and led a monastic life from childhood. A trusted follower of the Zhabdrung, Minjur Tenpa subdued the kings of Bumthang, Lhuentse, Trashigang, Zhemgang, and other lords from Trongsa Dzong. From this time, the status of the independent kingdom was reduced to semi-independent Bumthang Province, whose dzongpen (governor) answered to Trongsa. The legacy of the Kingdom of Bumthang is demonstrated in its religious and political significance in modern Bhutan, inc the modern royal House of Wangchuck, who emerged from roots in the Bumthang Kingdom.

Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) was born in Bumthang. His father was Lama Döndrup Zangpo of the Nyö clan, and his mother, Drogmo Pema Drolma, was bestowed with the signs of a dakini. As an incarnation of the Omniscient One Drimé Ozer (Longchenpa), Pema Lingpa was an extra-ordinary child. One day Padmasambhava appeared before Pema Lingpa, blessed him, and placed in his hands an inventory of 108 major termas to be revealed. Pema Lingpa was highly regarded by all 4 principal schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He spent his life revealing the precious treasures of Padmasambhava, giving empowerments and teachings, meditating in isolated locations, building and restoring monasteries, and establishing a tradition that endures to this day. Pema Lingpa prophesied that in the future he would return as Longsal Nyingpo in the pure land of Pemako, and that those connected with him would be reborn in Pemakö as his students. He married twice; to Yum Tima (Sithar) and Yum Bumdren. Notable descendants of Pema Lingpa include the House of Wangchuck and the 6th Dalai Lama. The Pema Lingpa lineage continues today in the 3 lines of Body, Speech, and Mind emanations of Pema Lingpa: the Gangteng, Sungtrul, and Tukse Rinpoches, all of whom traditionally reside in Bhutan. Traditionally, these are:
1. Peling Sungtrul incarnations: The incarnation of Padma Lingpa (Tenzin Drakpa 1536–97, Kunkhyen Tsultim Dorje 1680–1723, Dorje Mikyō-tsal aka Ngawang Kunzang Rolpai Dorje 1725–62, Kunzang Tsewang aka Tenzin Drubchog Dorje 1763–1817, Kunzang Tenpai Gyaltsen 1819–42, Pema Tenzin aka Kunzang Ngawang Chokyi Lodro, Kunzang Dechen Dorje, Tenzin Chōki Gyaltsen 1843–91, Pema Ōsal Gyurme Dorje 1930–55, Jigdrel Kunzang Pema Dorji b. 1965 present Peling Sungtrul or Lhalung Sungtrul Rinpoche)
2. Peling Thuksay/ Tukse incarnations: The incarnations of Padma Lingpa's son Thuksay Dawa Gyeltshen (Tukse Dawa Gyaltsen b.1499 son of Pema Lingpa, Nyida Gyaltsen, Nyida Longyang, Tenzin Gyurme Dorje 1641–1702, Gyurme Chogdrub Palzang 1708–50, Tenzin Chokyi Nyima 1752–75, Kunzang Gyurme Dorje Lungrig Chokyi Gocha c1780–c1825, Kunzang Zilnon Zhadpatsal, Thubten Palwar 1906–39, Tegchog Tenpa'i Gyaltsen 1951–2010)
3. Gangteng Truelku/Tulku or Peling Gyalse incarnations: The incarnations of Gyalse Pema Thinley; son of Thuksay Dawa Gyeltshen (Gyalse Pema Tinley 1564–1642, Tenzin Lekpai Dondrup 1645–1726, Tinley Namgyal aka Kunzang Pema Namgyal d.1750, Tenzin Sizhi Namgyal 1761-96, Orgyen Geleg Namgyal d.1842?, Orgyen Tenpai Nyima 1873-1900?, Orgyen Tenpai Nyinjed, Orgyen Thinley Dorje, Rigdzing Kunzang Padma Namgyal b. 1955 ~ present Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche)
Pema Lingpa's family line grew into a pre-eminent class of religious elites, known as Choje, who were pre-dominant in the Bhutanese religious and political sphere. The House of Wangchuck claims direct descent from Pema Lingpa, as do many other Himalayan religious elites. The Tamzhing Chöje family, with its main seat at Tamzhing Monastery, began with Pema Lingpa's son, Drakpa Gyalpo, who died without leaving an heir and continued through Pema Lingpa's youngest son, Sangda.

Posted by PetersF 14:05 Archived in Bhutan Tagged temple bhutan dzong tshechu Comments (0)

Bhutan Punakha to Paro

Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chöten; Semtokha (Simtokha) Dzong

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September 22nd Punakha, Bhutan

We were told to wear walking shoes, so we knew a short trek was happening and were not surprised to drive down to the river. We crossed the river on one of Steve’s belovéd wibbly- wobbly bridges. The iron bed and steel cable look new, but the towers look old; no one knows exactly how old. The first iron suspension bridges in Bhutan were built over 500 years ago c 1440 and 5 of those are known to be still in use! Then we walked along the banks of the Mo Chhu for a short while before heading up through the wet rice paddies. Soon we left the rice fields and went steeply up a sandy track. Half way up was a big prayer wheel in its little shelter, which we turned and chanted ‘om mani padme hum’. Then climbing up the hill through the pine trees, with nice views up and down the valley, though was getting hot. At the top tourists can see a lovely Body tree, well tended gardens, two large prayer wheels in their special shelter, and the gorgeous little temple.

This was Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chöten (aka Nyizergang Chöten/ Punakha Zangdopelri), a chörten in the Punakha district. It is unique as it was not designed for community worship or for monastic retreat like other Buddhist Institute Colleges, but as a magical tool to ward off negative influences and bring harmony to the valley. This chöten (stupa) was built in 2004 by the queen mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck, in Nyizergang, roughly a half hr walk from he footbridge in Yepaisa Village. It was built in accordance with the instructions of Lopon Sonam Zangpo, with the intention of bringing peace in the world, and to clear obstacles for the country of Bhutan in particular. Its exterior is in the form of a pagoda-like stupa while the interior consists of 4 stories containing images of the deities of mandalas of Vajarakilaya. Bartsham Lama Kunzang Wangdi, popularly known as Lama Nyingkula, a close disciple of HH Dudjom Rinpoche was in charge of the construction of this Chöten. In most Buddhist temples, you walk in the front, and there’s an open space to sit and pray or meditate, and a big shrine in the back with (usually) a Sakyamuni Buddha. Here, however, walking in the north door, we were immediately face-to-multiple-face with the multiplex wrath of Vajrakilaya, the most wrathful of protective deities. This huge sculpture, 5.5m high, filled the whole room. It’s too big to grasp as one being; even the main heads are hard to see, being close to the ceiling and obscured by the dizzying detail of the various other manifestations. There are 103 sculptures, each an aspect of the deity, emerging bodily from his main mass, all in brilliant colours. On the 2nd level there is another shrine room, and another wrathful deity statue, not as overwhelming in size and complexity, but still ferociously powerful. In another stair to the third level is a third wrathful female deity, even more ferocious and energetic. She transforms her consort’s wrath, but there is plenty more beyond her reach, so his potency reaches everywhere. Each wall is covered with a series of responding deities. There are of more Yab-Yum figures, peaceful deities of all colours, locked in embrace with their consorts. The sexually-charged energy that starts with wrath at the centre became peaceful enjoyment at the periphery. Finally, take the last stairway, and emerge on the roof! The view is fantastic. And here, at last, is a modestly-sized, classically-posed, golden Sakyamuni Buddha, facing southward toward the sun, peaceful and welcoming. Having survived all the transformational challenges of the wrathful deities, one can truly feel the peace. The outside world should see only this peace: the work of the guardians within can remain hidden. The view from the top was especially attractive. A guard literally followed us all the way up and when I asked what he thought we might do it turned out that he was bored because not many people visited and he fancied a walk!
After our trip, which took roughly 1.5 hours we drove back to Punakha. On the way our guide pointed out a large 3 storey somewhat dilapidated house and told us it was the scene of Bhutan’s great love story. Galem’s manor is the site of Bhutan’s greatest love story, akin to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet... the doomed love of Gasi Lama Singwe and Changyul Bum Galem. Galem was the beautiful daughter of the richest farmer in Punakha dzonkhang and she lived in the (then glorious) three storied manor. Gasa Lamai Singye was a humble servant to the monastic order in Gasa. They fell in love and nurtured dreams of spending their lives together, but every Deb the Chieftain fell for Galem’s stunning beauty. He told his assistant of his desire to marry Galem. The attendant was aware of the love between Galem and Singye so he pulled some strings to have Singye transferred to the Monastic Body of Gasa many miles away. After an unwilling Singye left, Deb’s proposal was communicated to Galem’s parents.
Naturally the parents were overjoyed and insisted on Galem accepting the proposal even though she was unwilling. A desperate Galem confessed her love for Singye and admitted she was pregnant, at which her parents threw her out of the house. A distraught Galem sat on the bank of Mo Chhu singing plaintively to passers-by and requesting them to pass on her message to Singye. Galem fell ill due to her pregnancy and poor health and legends say that even the Mo Chuu slowed its pace out of sympathy to the girl. Finally a passerby was moved on seeing Galem’s plight and conveyed her condition to Singye who immediately tried to rush back. That very night Singye had a bad dream about his beloved and he knew that something had happened to her. When he finally reached Galem she had perished and he was confronted with the sight of her funeral pyre. Struck by despair, Singye jumped into the flames of the pyre, shouting they would be united in their next incarnation.

Peoples od Bhutan
Ngalop people (also known as Bhote) and indigenious Sharchop people 50%- Tibetan antecedents; Lhotsampas (also o a There are numerous ethnic groups in Bhutan, and no one group constitutes a majority. The Bhutanese are of four main ethnic groups: the politically and culturally dominant Ngalop of western and northern Bhutan; the Sharchop of of eastern Bhutan; the Lhotshampa concentrated in southern Bhutan; and Bhutanese tribal and aboriginal peoples living viillages scattered throughout Bhutan. The Ngalop (earliest risen/first converted) are people of Tibetan origin who migrated to Bhutan early in the 9th century. They introduced Tibetan culture and Buddhism to Bhutan and are the dominant political and cultural element in modern Bhutan. Their language, Dzongkha, is the national language and is descended from Old Tibetan. The term Ngalop subsumes several related linguistic and cultural groups, such as the Kheng people and speakers of Bumthang language (mutually intelligible languages). The Sharchop (easterner), are populations of mixed Tibetan, South Asian and Southeast Asian descent that mostly live in the east of Bhutan. The Sharchop and closely related aboriginal Monpa (Menba) are descendants of the principal pre-Tibetan (pre- Dzongkha) people of Bhutan. The Sharchop account for most of the population of eastern Bhutan. Although the biggest single ethnic group in Bhutan, the Sharchop have been largely assimilated into the Tibetan-Ngalop culture. Most Sharchop speak Tshangla, a Tibeto-Burman language, although those in the south, due to their proximity to India, speak Assamese or Hindi. Small aboriginal or indigenous tribal people live in scattered villages throughout Bhutan. Culturally and linguistically part of the populations of West Bengal or Assam, they embrace the Hindu system of endogamous groups ranked by hierarchy. They include the Brokpa, Lepcha, and Doya tribes as well as the descendants of slaves. The remaining population are the Lhotshampa (southerners), a culture with historical links to Nepal, and speaking the same language as the Gorkha people. They were often referred to as Nepalese by the government of Bhutan. Officially, the government stated that 28% of the population was Nepalese in the late 1980s, but unofficial estimates ran as high as 30-40%, and Nepalese were constitute a majority in southern Bhutan. The Lhotshampa are generally classified as Hindus, but this is an oversimplification as many groups, including the Tamang and Gurung are largely Buddhist, while the Kiranti groups that include the Rai and Limbu are mainly animist followers of Mundhum. Bhutan had a sizable modern Tibetan refugee population, c10,000 in 1987, in the wake of the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion. The Tibetan expatriates became only partially integrated into Bhutanese society. When the King fell sick, there was a problem of who would inherit the monarchy; the son of the Tibetan or Bhutanese Queen. He chose Bhutan and the Tibetans in Bhutan had to suffer the consequence. Some Tibetans were secretly taken from their home and sent to prison or to remote places for many years. The general Tibetan public in Bhutan only heard about it later on. So, the Tibetans in Bhutan requested leave to go to India where their beloved spiritual leader was. Perceiving a lack of allegiance to the state on the part of Tibetans, the government decided in 1979 to expel to India those who refused residency. The first two groups of Tibetans were sent to India and founded their own community, but a third group is still in Bhutan. They don’t have a Bhutanese passport because they were a group that wanted to leave Bhutan. Other Tibetans have Bhutanese residency because they accepted the offer to live in Bhutan instead of going to India. Although Bhutan traditionally welcomed refugees government policy in the late 1980s was to refuse more Tibetan refugees.

We set off back towards Thimphu. Passing back over Dochula Pass we went into the important Semtokha (Simtokha) Dzong (5 km S of Thimphu) aka Sangak Zabdhon Phodrang (Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras. A legend has that it was built to encase in stone an evil female spirit (Simmo= demoness; do= stone) that was harassing travellers, and was the first of its kind in Bhutan. It has survived in its original form. The dzong, built by Rinpoche Ngawang Namgyal in 1629 was modelled after the Gyal Gyad Tshel Institute of Ralung (Tibet) and is quite distinctive as its Utse (central tower) has 12 sides. Namgyal brought into vogue, for the first time in Bhutan, this concept of the "dzong" as castle monastery with administrative and monastic functions. An attack on the dzong was made by 5 disgruntled lamas in collaboration with an invading army of Tibetans who were against the Buddhist practices of the dzong under the control of Zhabdrung. They were defeated and Palden Lama (Tibetan leader) died in the battle. Another attack on the dzong in 1630 by the Tibetans was successful until part of the dzong caught fire and the roof collapsed, killing all the invaders.
The dzong, covering an area of about 60 m2, has only one entry gate from the south while in the past it was on the west. Built over 3 floors it is covered on the exterior with prayer wheels and 300 slate carvings of saints and philosophers. A large statue of Yeshay Gonpo (Mahakala), the chief protective deity of Bhutan, is housed inside the Utse. Another interesting aspect of the dzong is that it contains the bed chambers of both Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Jigme Namgyel, two of the most important figures in Bhutanese history. The dzong houses statues and
paintings of various Buddhas, deities and religious figures including The Eight Manifestations of Guru Rimpoche, Jampelyang the Bodhisattava of Wisdom, Shakya Gyalpo the Buddha of Compassion and many more all carved and painted in exquisite detail. The main lhakhang (chapel) has a large image of the Sakyamuni (Buddha), with images of 8 bodhisattvas. There are dark mural paintings, said to be the oldest in Bhutan. The chapel to the west of the main Lhakahan has images of Chenresig, green and white Taras, and an old painting of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the dzong. On the pillars of the eastern goenkhang are tiger's tails and guns. Chapels here are dedicated to Yeshe Goennpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo, the protector deities of Bhutan. In the genre of Himalayan mural painting, the cosmic mandala in the dzong is considered unique. It is a circle that is painted on the ceiling in the assembly hall or Tshogdu, within a square in the form of mountain ranges with yellow concentric squares. The circles within it are painted in several colours, making it distinctive, represents the twelve months of the year. The path of the course of sun's movement is painted as a line in the form of an ellipse in brick red colour; moons are also represented. The first renovation and extension works on the dzong was completed in 1670 by Mingyur Tenpa, the third Druk Desi (regent) and has undergone many renovations in subsequent years. The four harmonious animals are figures in Buddhist mythology, and can often be found as subject in Bhutanese and Tibetan art. It is the most common theme in Bhutanese art, featuring on many temple murals, stupas, and even on utensils. It is the best-known national folktale of Bhutan and is popular in Tibet and Mongolia. A popular theme has an elephant standing under a fruit tree carrying a monkey, a hare and a bird (usually a partridge, sometimes a grouse, and in Bhutan a hornbill) on top of each other. The scene refers to a legend which tells that four animals were trying to find out who was the oldest. The elephant said that the tree was already fully grown when he was young, the monkey that the tree was small when he was young, the hare that he saw the tree as a sapling when he was young and the bird claimed that he had excreted the seed from which the tree grew. So the bird was recognised the other animals as the oldest, and the four animals lived in cooperation, helping each other to enjoy the fruits of the tree. After the story is finished, it is revealed the partridge was the Buddha in a previous life. The story was meant as an illustration of cooperation and respect. The four animals represent the different habitats of the animal world, sky, trees, ground, and underground. The image of the animals standing on each other’s shoulders portrays social and environmental harmony: the bird finds a seed and plants it, the rabbit waters it, and the monkey fertilises it. Once the seed sprouts and begins to grow, the elephant protects it. The small plant grows into a big, beautiful tree full of fruit. By working together and using their individual talents, the four friends are able to reach and enjoy the fruit. Surprisingly similar to the 4 Musicians of Bremen.
On the route our guide was keen to talk about various Bhutan legends, the most interesting relating to yetis. Now, apparently, there is a Yeti Park in Bhutan and our guide wasn’t entirely convinced they weren’t real. A popular story goes that female yetis are very keen on mating with human males (women don’t have to worry about male yetis; they aren’t interested). Anyway, as yetis are stronger than men if you are alone in the mountain and meet a yeti it will take you, mate with you and then probably eat you! Only one famous local was able to escape and he did this as he was the fastest man in Bhutan!
Another thing we noticed was the houses; pretty much everyone had red chillies drying on the roof. Our guide said that the Bhutanese LOVED their chilli. Then it was to Thimphu for lunch. An interesting restaurant with slightly better buffet ended with us chatting to a group of South Koreans who insisted they were related to the Bhutanese, which is remotely possible in the far east of Bhutan (though unlikely), but definitely not the case here in the west. We filled up at 1 of its 2 petrol stations (lucky as Punakha had only one) and after 142km arrived in Paro.

Paro in Paro Valley is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered throughout the area. It is home to Bhutan's sole international airport. A 16-km road passes up the valley to the ruins of another fortress-monastery, Drukyel Dzong, partly destroyed by fire in 1951. Paro is also home to Bhutan's tallest building, the Ta-Dzhong, 22m high (built in 1649). We drove up the valley towards the Dzong, but apparently it was not worth visiting. Rinpung (Paro) Dzong is a fortress-monastery overlooking Paro valley. A monastery was first built here by Padma Sambhava in the early 10th century and in 1644 Ngawang Namgyal built a larger one on the old foundations; for centuries this imposing 5-storey building served as an effective defence against invasions by Tibetans. Built with stone instead of clay, the Dzong was named Rinpung, meaning "heaps of jewels" but Rinpung and its treasures were destroyed by fire in 1907. Only one thangka, Thongdel, was saved. On the hill above the Dzong stands an ancient watchtower, Ta Dzong, now the National Museum of Bhutan. Housed within its walls is a collection of sacred masks and costumes dating back several centuries, along with several rooms devoted to Bhutan’s flora and fauna. Across a medieval bridge Nyamai Zampa, below the Dzong is Ugyen Pelri Palace, a royal residence constructed by penlop Tshering Penjor. Dungtse Lhakhang is a 15th-c temple near the new bridge, and Ugyen Perli Palace is visible through the fence. Members of royal family lodge in the palace when passing. Nearby is the old bridge, close to Rinpung Dzong. We entered the museum (having put all our things and apparently especially our phones) in a locker. The Cham Mask exhibits were interesting enough, though not well displayed (rows and rows, but at least labelled), but the natural history sections were much better done, organised by geography/ terrain with flora/fauna in each. A large 3D map showed clearly the different parks. Once there had been road passes joining Bhutan and Tibet, but strangely (irony) they were destroyed in landslides from earthquakes and never repaired (the Bhutanese were quite happy with this).

There are over two dozen main languages of Bhutan, all members of the Tibeto-Burman language family except for Nepali, which is an Indo-Aryan language. Dzongkha, the national language, is the only language with a native literary tradition in Bhutan, though Lepcha and Nepali have literary languages in other countries. Other non-Bhutanese minority languages are spoken along Bhutan's borders and among the primarily Nepali- speaking Lhotshampa community in South and East Bhutan. The 6 Central Bodish languages are a group descended from Old Tibetan (Chöke). Most Bhutanese varieties of Central Bodish languages are of the Southern subgroup. Dzongkha is a Central Bodish language, the dominant language in Western Bhutan, and the language of government and education in Bhutan since 1971. The Chocangaca language, a "sister language" to Dzongkha, is spoken in the Kurichu Valley of Eastern Bhutan. The Laya dialect, closely related to Dzongkha, is spoken by Layaps, an indigenous nomadic/ semi-nomadic people who traditionally herd yaks and dzos. Khams Tibetan is spoken in Eastern Bhutan. 8 languages are East Bodish languages, not members of the closely related Tibetic group but still descended from Old Tibetan. The Bumthang language is the dominant language in Central Bhutan, with Kheng and Kurtöp languages closely related. Dzala language, Nyen language, and 'Ole language ("Black Mountain language" or "Mönkha") are spoken in the Black Mountains of Central Bhutan by the remnant of the primordial population of the Black Mountains before the southward expansion of the ancient East Bodish tribes. Other Tibeto-Burman languages in Bhutan are more distantly related to the Bodish languages. The Tshangla language, a subfamily of its own, is the mother tongue of the Sharchops and the dominant language in Eastern Bhutan. Gongduk language is an endangered language in isolated villages along the Kuri Chhu river in Eastern Bhutan. It appears to be the sole representative of a unique branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family and retains the complex verbal agreement system of Proto-Tibeto-Burman. Lepcha language has approximately 2,000 ethnic Lepcha people in Bhutan and its own highly stylized Lepcha script. The Lhokpu language of the Lhop people has approx 2,500 speakers. It is one of the autochthonous languages of Bhutan and is yet unclassified within Tibeto-Burmese. Nepali is the only Indo-Aryan language spoken by native Bhutanese. Inside Bhutan, it is spoken primarily in the south by the approximately 265,000 Lhotshampa. The Lhotshampa include many smaller non-Indo-Aryan groups such as the Tamang and Gurung in Southern Bhutan, and the Kiranti groups including the Rai (our guide’s ethnicity) and Limbu peoples found in Eastern Bhutan. Among these minorities are speakers of Chamling, Limbu, and Nepal Bhasa. Quite a number of these people have productive farms in the south, which they farm during the year, supplementing their income by acting as guides during quieter farm times (like our guide).

Natural history of Bhutan
Today 70% of the kingdom’s total area has been designated as protected nature preserves and contains over 60% of the common plant species of the Eastern Himalayas. There are 4 climate areas: in the south a borderline tropical forest (c200m), moist, occasional monsoon, low and warm; in the centre sub-tropical forests, becoming temperate with large forest areas (c1000m); and in the alpine north (c4000m) cold and mountainous with patches of trees in lower areas. Bhutan boasts 46 species of rhododendrons and 300 types of medicinal plants. Junipers, magnolias, carnivorous plants, orchids, Blue Poppies (the national flower), edelweiss, gentian, various medicinal herbs, daphne, Giant Rhubarb, pine and oak trees are among the plants commonly found. One of Bhutan's ancient names given by Tibet was Menjong yul (land of Medicinal Herbs).
" Clouded leopards, elephants, one horned Rhinoceros, water buffalo, golden langur, gaur, hispid hare, sloth bear, swamp deer, hog deer, horn bills. live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south.
" Temperate zone fauna include Tigers, leopards, goral, grey langur, serow, Himalayan black bear, red panda (left), squirrels, sambar, wild pig, and barking deer in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat.
! High altitude is home to the Snow leopard, blue sheep, red panda, tiger, takin, marmot and musk deer. Bhutan is home to the highest altitude inhabiting Tigers in the world and they are commonly found throughout the country. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north also have Tibetan wolves, antelope and Himalayan musk deer.

Tropical/ Sub-tropical
Clouded leopards are two species of wild cat that live throughout the forests of Southeast Asia. The smallest of the big cats, they are secretive and rare in the wild, preferring to remain alone and hidden from view. Studying them is a unique challenge, and they remain elusive and poorly understood. Clouded leopards are a member of the Pantherinae that also includes lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, and snow leopards. While they are known as clouded leopards, cloudies are not directly related to normal leopards. Until 2006, there was thought to be a single clouded leopard species but, recent research has shown two distinct species, one in mainland Asia and Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa), another Borneo/Sumatra (Neofelis diardi). The two diverged 1.5 million years ago due to geographic isolation. In fact, although they look similar, genetically a clouded leopard is more different to its sister species than a lion is to a tiger. A distinctive feature is the long canine teeth, the longest for skull size of any modern carnivore, causing a comparison with the extinct sabre- toothed cat (studies reveal connections between the two eg. both have an enormous gape, around 100o, compared to a lion of 65o). Sabre-toothed cats would bite prey through the neck, using their elongated teeth to sever nerves and
blood vessels and strangle the windpipe, to instantly kill, a very different hunting technique from living big cats, which use a throat grip to suffocate. It is possible that clouded leopards use a similar technique but little is known about clouded leopard hunting strategies.
Gee's golden langur is an Old World monkey found in a small region of western Assam and the foothills of the Black Mountains of Bhutan. It is one of the most endangered primate species of India. Long considered sacred by Himalayan people, the golden langur was first brought to the attention of the western world in the 1950s. In Bhutan, it has hybridised with the capped langur.
The gaur (Bos gaurus) or Indian bison, is the largest extant bovine. It has been listed as Vulnerable but population trends are rebuilding. The gaur is the tallest of wild cattle species. Both sexes carry horns, which grow from the sides of the head, curving upwards. The Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus filchneri) is a subspecies of the grey wolf native to the Tibetan Plateau. It is sometimes referred to by its previous classification of Canis lupus laniger, and incorrectly as Canis lupus chanco (Mongolian wolf). The White-bellied or Himalayan musk deer is a musk deer species in the Himalayas of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan and China listed as endangered because of overexploitation. White-bellied musk deer are well adapted to high altitudes; they demonstrate adaptations like well-developed dew claws, broad toes to provide increased stability on steep slopes, and a dense coat of coarse hairs with air-filled cells to insulate against the extreme temperature. While they lack antlers, like all musk deer, they do possess a pair of enlarged and easily broken canines that grow continuously. The maximum length of the tusks is 10 cm. Their hind legs are significantly longer and more muscular than their shorter, thinner forelimbs. In place of running or leaping, this species tends to "bound." The white-bellied musk deer has a waxy substance called musk that the male secrets from a gland in the abdomen to mark territories and attract females. This is used in the manufacture of perfumes and medicines.
Gorals are four species in the genus Nemorhaedus or Naemorhedus. They are small ungulates with a goat- or antelope-like appearance. Until recently, this genus also contained the serow species (now in genus Capricornis). The name "goral" comes from an eastern Indian word for the Himalayan goral.
Serow is 6 species, until recently classified as Naemorhedus, which now only contains the gorals. Like their smaller relatives the gorals, serows are found grazing on rocky hills, though typically at a lower elevation when the two types of animal share territory. Serows are slower and less agile than gorals, but they nevertheless can climb slopes to escape predation and to take shelter during cold winters/ hot summers. Serows, unlike gorals, make use of their preorbital glands in scent marking. Colour varies by species, region, and individual. Both sexes have beards and small horns which are often shorter than their ears. Fossils of serow-like animals date to the late Pliocene, 2-7 million years ago. The common ancestor species of the Caprinae subfamily may have been very similar to modern serows.
Alpine 3-6,000m
Known throughout the world for its beautiful fur and elusive behaviour, the endangered Snow leopard (Panthera uncia, previously Uncia Uncia) is found in the rugged mountains (c3/4,000m) of Central Asia. Snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude home, but human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Despite a range of over 2 million km2, scientists estimate that there may only be 4-6,000 snow leopards left in the wild. The snow leopard is solitary and highly elusive with home ranges of up to 1,000 sq km. For about 18 months, females raise their cubs alone. The snow leopard primarily lives in arid, barren mountain areas and are not known to be aggressive toward humans. The cat’s main prey are ibex, argali and blue sheep. The genus name, Uncia, is derived from the Old French word once, which was originally used for the European lynx. The snow leopard is still occasionally called ounce. The snow leopard shows adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Its body is stocky, its fur thick, and its ears small and rounded, to minimize heat loss. Its broad paws distribute the body weight for walking on snow, and fur on their undersides increase their grip on steep and unstable surfaces as well as helping to minimize heat loss. Its long flexible tail helps maintain balance in the rocky terrain. The tail is also very thick due to fat storage, and is thickly covered with fur, which allows the cat to use it like a blanket to protect its face when asleep. The snow leopard cannot roar, despite possessing partial ossification of the hyoid bone. Snow leopard vocalizations include hisses, chuffing, mews, growls, and wailing. Its main food source is The bharal (Pseudois nayaur), aka Himalayan blue sheep or naur, a caprid found in the high Himalayas 1-4000m. The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), aka lesser panda, red bear-cat/ cat-bear is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas with reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is roughly the size of a domestic cat, though with a longer body and somewhat heavier. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is classified as endangered because its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals, even though red pandas are protected by national laws in their range countries. The red panda is the only living species of the genus Ailurus and the family Ailuridae. Previously placed in the raccoon and bear families, the results of phylogenetic analysis provide strong support for its taxonomic classification in its own family, Ailuridae, which is part of the superfamily Musteloidea, along with the weasel, raccoon and skunk families. It is not closely related to the giant panda.

The Black necked crane, Green-backed tit, Plumbeous Water Redstart and Oriental Turtle Dove, White-bellied Heron, Chestnut-breasted Hill Partridge, White-rumped vulture, Beautiful Nuthatch, Blyth’s Tragopan, and Satyr tragopan are some of the more famous (and endangered) birds found in Bhutan. The national bird of Bhutan is Raven. A black-necked crane festival is held every year in the premises of the Gangteng Monastery on 11 November to welcome the cranes from Tibet, which start arriving in late October. Only some 9000 are left, due to hunting. The Plumbeous Redstart likes streams and rivers with shaded boulders and vegetation near riverbanks where mayflies appear. They are typically found at relatively high elevations, with ones in the Himalayas seen between 2,000- 4,100 metres. The plumbeous water redstart has been placed on the Least Concern category. The Oriental or rufous turtle dove is a member of the bird family Columbidae. The species is has a wide distribution from Europe, east across Asia to Japan. The populations show variations in the patterning of plumage and have been designated into at least 6 subspecies. The White-bellied or Imperial Heron is found mostly in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. It is mostly dark grey with a white throat and underparts. This heron is mostly solitary and found on riverside or wetland habitats. The global population has declines and the species is threatened by habitat degradation and currently listed as Critically Endangered. The Chestnut-Breasted partridge is a species of partridge endemic to the eastern Himalayas north of the Brahmaputra (Bhutan, West Bengal, south-east Tibet). It is a distinctive partridge with chestnut breast and grey belly. This bird has been classified as Vulnerable. The Beautiful Nuthatch is a large nuthatch, 16.5cm long. Its colour and markings are dramatic, the upper parts being black and azure, streaked with white and pale and throat are ochre. An irregular, dark eyestripe highlights its eye. It feeds on small insects and larvae found on the trunks and epiphyte-covered branches of trees in its range. Its habitat is threatened by deforestation and the species has been classified as vulnerable.
Tragopan is in the Phasianidae family, commonly called horned pheasant as males have two brightly coloured, fleshy horns on their head that are erected in courtship displays. The scientific name refers to the horn, being a composite of tragos (billy goat) and the half-goat deity Pan. There are five tragopan species. Blyths’ Tragopan is believed to be decreasing at a rapid rate, except in Bhutan. Tragopan blythii normallly flocks to wooded areas as it prefers the undergrowth of evergreen oak and rhododendron forests, and other dark, quiet places. This bird has a higher elevation than most birds. The Satyr tragopan or crimson horned pheasant, is a pheasant found in the Himalayas of India, Nepal and Bhutan in moist oak and rhododendron forests with dense undergrowth and bamboo clumps. When it is mating, the male grows blue horns and a wattle. When ready to display they will inflate their horns, hide behind a rock and wait for females to pass by. The Great hornbill is one of the larger members of the hornbill family. Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals. The great hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity. It is predominantly frugivorous, but will prey on small mammals, reptiles and birds. The great hornbill is 100 cm, with a 152 cm wingspan. Females are smaller than males and have bluish- white instead of red eyes. Like other hornbills, they have prominent "eyelashes". The most prominent feature of the hornbill is the bright yellow and black casque on top of its massive bill. The casque is hollow and serves no known purpose, although it is believed to be the result of sexual selection. Male hornbills have been known to be involved in aerial casque butting, with birds striking each other in flight. The male spreads the preen secretion gland, which is yellow, onto the primary feathers and bill to give them the bright yellow colour. The flight involves stiff flaps followed by glides with the fingers upcurled and splayed. They sometimes fly at great height over forests.
There are at least 600 butterflies in Bhutan (Europe was less than 500). Their National Butterfly is the pretty, and extremely rare Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory Swallowtail (left below) found only in Tobrang, a remote part of the Bumdelling Wildlife Sanctuary, Trashiyangtse, Bhutan. Whilst we saw quite a lot of butterflies, the large and beautiful Azure Sapphire (Heliophorus moorei) stood out for us. This huge neon blue butterfly lives around the rivers in warm Paro, flitting from bush to bush (right below).

It was surprisingly late by the time we finished and headed back down to Paro town. Initially we wanted to use the ATM to take out money for souvenirs, but this turned into a fruitless quest to find a working ATM and further one that took CIRRUS. Instead we went for a walk in the food market. A large portion was given to different types of chilli, at least 15 different varieties. Other areas had mountain herbs (mainly used for traditional medicine) and rice (including a flaked one you could eat straight away). Flattened rice, commonly known as chura, is rice flattened into flat, light, dry flakes. These swell when added to liquid, whether hot or cold, as they absorb water, milk or any other liquids. The thickness of the flakes varies between almost translucently thin (more expensive) to nearly four times thinner than a normal rice grain.
Then it was to our hotel, an attractive one on a hillside (annoyingly we were miles up, but the view from our balcony was great). This was the Hotel Khangkhu Resort http://khangkhuresort.com/
Our guide announced that we had “passed” the trek test and we’re going to walk to Taktsang Monastery in the morning. Steve and I headed to dinner (yep, a buffet, though the Bhutanese wine was surprisingly quaffable). The Royal Bhutanese Army is involved with the production of wine and whiskey. First, the profits help support the army; second, the controlled quality of this alcohol is better for the people of Bhutan (rather than the previous moonshine). The program is known as AWP, which stands for Army Welfare Projects, and was founded in 1976. There are now a few commercially produced wines in the country. One wine is made from peaches, and others from grapes. Most, but not all grapes are procured outside the country. Vintria Shiraz Dry Wine has great fruit flavours of dark berry fruits, hints of oak pairing and vanilla aroma with long-lasting fruit palate aftertaste. This wine was made in Bhutan, but some other ‘Bhutanese’ wines are actually produced in India and imported. Bhutanese beers are good- Red Panda, Druk (both 5% alcohol) and Druk 11000 (8% alcohol). Then we enjoyed the night view from our balcony; the dzong and watchtower were beautifully lit. Across was an interesting temple, Jangtsa Dumgtseg Lhakhang. This Buddhist temple in Jangtsa, Paro, is notable as it is in the form of a chorten, which is rare in Bhutan. It is located across the bridge from Paro on the edge of a hill between the Paro valley and the Dopchari valley. The Buddhist iconography depicted in the Chorten is a unique repository of the Drukpa Kagyu school. According to a local legend, the Lhakhang was built by the saint Thangtong Gyalpo to subdue a of a demoness. According to a Bhutanese source it was built "on the nose of a hill that looks like a frog in order to counteract Sadag (an earth-owning spirit) and Lunyen (a powerful naga spirit). It is said that the hill on which the temple is built, is a black vicious snake moving downwards.

History of Bhutan part 3
In the 17th century, a theocratic government independent of Tibetan political influence was established, and pre-modern Bhutan emerged. The theocratic government was founded by an expatriate Drukpa monk, Ngawang Namgyal, who arrived in Bhutan in 1616 seeking freedom from the domination of the Gelugpa subsect led by the Dalai Lama in Lhasa. After a series of victories over rival subsect leaders and Tibetan invaders, Ngawang Namgyal took the title the Zhabdrung (At Whose Feet One Submits, or Dharma Raja), becoming the temporal and spiritual leader of Bhutan. Considered the first great historical figure of Bhutan, he united the leaders of powerful Bhutanese families in a land called Drukyul. He promulgated a code of law and built a network of impregnable dzong, a system that helped bring local lords under central control and strengthened the country against Tibetan invasions. Tibetan armies invaded Bhutan 1629, 1631, and 1639, hoping to stop Ngawang Namgyal. In 1634 Ngawang Namgyal defeated Karma Tenkyong's army in the Battle of Five Lamas. The invasions were thwarted, and the Drukpa subsect developed a strong presence in western/ central Bhutan, leaving Ngawang Namgyal supreme. Missions were sent to Bhutan from Cooch Behar in the Duars (present-day West Bengal), Nepal, and Ladakh (western Tibet). In 1643, a joint Mongol-Tibetan force sought to destroy Nyingmapa refugees who had fled to Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal. The Mongols had seized control of religious and civil power in Tibet in the 1630s and established Gelugpa Buddhism as the state religion. Bhutanese rivals of Ngawang Namgyal encouraged the Mongol intrusion, but the Mongol force was easily defeated in southern Bhutan. Another Tibetan invasion in 1647 also failed. Under Ngawang Namgyal, administration comprised a state monastic body with an elected head, the Je Khenpo (lord abbot), and a theocratic civil government headed by the Druk Desi (regent of Bhutan, aka Deb Raja in Western sources). The Druk Desi was either a monk or a member of the laity (by the 19th c, usually the latter) elected for a 3-year term, initially by a monastic council and later by the State Council (Lhengye Tshokdu). The State Council was a central administrative organ that included regional rulers, the Zhabdrung's chamberlains, and the Druk Desi. The Zhabdrung was the head of state and ultimate authority in religious and civil matters. The seat of government was at Thimphu, the site of a 13th-century dzong, in the spring, summer, and fall, and Punakha Dzong in winter, a dzong established in 1527. The kingdom was divided into three regions (east, central, and west), each with an appointed ponlop (governor), holding a seat in a major dzong. Districts were headed by dzongpon (district officers), who had their headquarters in lesser dzong. The ponlop were tax collectors, judges, military commanders, and procurement agents for the central government. Their major revenues came from the trade between Tibet and India and from land taxes. Ngawang Namgyal's regime was bound by a legal code called the Tsa Yig, which described the spiritual and civil regime and provided laws for government administration and for social and moral conduct. The duties and virtues inherent in the Buddhist dharma (religious law) played a large role in the new legal code, which remained in force until the 1960s.

Buddhism and history meet
Ngawang Namgyal (later granted the honorific Zhabdrung/ Shabdrung Rinpoche) 1594-1651 and known colloquially as the Bearded Lama was a Tibetan lama and unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. In addition to unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he also sought to create a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity separate from the Tibetan culture from which it derived. Ngawang Namgyalwas born at Railung Monastery, Tibet, the son of the Drukpa lineage-holder (usually simply Drukpa, Dugpa or Red Hat sect, a branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism) Mipham Tenpa'i Nyima (1567–1619), and Sönam Pelgyi Butri, daughter of the ruler of Kyishö in Tibet. On his father's side Ngawang Namgyal descended from the family line of Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), the founder of the Drukpa School. In his youth Ngawang Namgyal was enthroned as the 18th Drukpa (throne-holder/ prince) of the traditional Drukpa seat and estate of Ralung and recognized there as the immediate reincarnation of the 4th Drukchen, Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (1527–1592). His recognition and enthronement at Ralung as the Drukpa incarnation was opposed by Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo, an influential follower of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, who promoted the recognition of a rival candidate, Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo (illegitimate son of Ngawang Sönam Dragpa, the Chongje Depa) as the Gyalwang Drukpa incarnation. Lhatsewa and Sönam Dragpa conducted an enthronement ceremony of Pagsam Wangpo as the incarnation of Künkhyen Pema Karpo and Gyalwang Drukpa at Tashi Thongmen monastery. Sönam Dragpa then persuaded the Tsang Desi (Depa Tsangpa), the most powerful ruler in Tibet and patron of the rival Karma Kagyu sect, to recognise Pagsam Wangpo as the Gyalwang Drukpa and incarnation of Künkhyen Pema Karpo. By 1612 the Tsang Desi, Karma Phuntsok Namgyal had gained control over all of Ü-Tsang, the heart of Tibet. For a time Ngawang Namgyal continued to live at the main Drukpa seat of Ralung, as irrespective of who was considered the true incarnation of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, Ngawang Namgyal was the main Drukpa hereditary lineage–holder, and legitimate throne-holder at Ralung Monastery, the traditional seat of the Drukpa Lineage/School. However following a misunderstanding with the important Karma Kagyu lama, Pawo Tsugla Gyatsho (1568–1630), the Tsang Desi demanded Ngawang Namgyal pay compensation and that the sacred religious relics of Ralung (the Rangjung Kharsapani) should be given to the rival Gyalwang Drukpa incarnate Gyalwa Pagsam Wangpo. The Tsang Desi prepared to send armed guards to arrest Ngawang Namgyal and enforce his demands. In 1616 facing arrest, and following visions (in which it is said that the chief guardian deities of Bhutan offered him a home) Shabdrung Ngawang Namgayal left Tibet to establish a new base in western Bhutan, founding Cheri Monastery at the head of Thimphu valley. In 1629 he built Simtokha Dzong at the entrance to Thimphu valley to control traffic between the powerful Paro and Trongsa vallies. He consolidated control over western Bhutan subduing rivals belonging to the Lhapa (a sub-sect of the Drikung Kagyu sect which had built the original dzongs in Bhutan, including Punakha Dzong in 1637-38). The Buddhist Schools of Drukpa Kagyu, Lhapa Kagyu and Nenyingpa had all controlled parts of western Bhutan since the 12th century. As he conquered and unified Bhutan, he only allowed the ancient Nyingma sect to continue in Bhutan (today the Nyingma comprise approx 30% of Bhutan's monks even though privately funded; while the Southern Drukpa Kagyu is supported as the established state religion of Bhutan). In
1634, in the Battle of Five Lamas Ngawang Namgyal prevailed over the Tibetan and Bhutanese forces allied against him and united Bhutan into a single country. He established the distinctive dual system of government under the Tsa Yig legal code, by which control of the country was shared between a spiritual leader (the Je Khenpo) to preside over the religious institutions and an administrative leader (the Druk Desi) as head of secular affairs, a policy which exists in modified form to this day. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal died in 1651, and power effectively passed to the penlops (local governors) instead of to a successor Shabdrung. In order to forestall a dynastic struggle and a return to warlordism, the death of the Zhabdrung was kept secret for 54 years. Eventually, the ruling authorities in Bhutan were faced with the problem of succession. To neutralize the power of future Zhabdrung incarnations, the Druk Desi, Je Khenpo and penlops conspired to recognise not a single person but rather 3 separate persons — a body incarnation (Ku tulku), mind incarnation (Thu tulku or Thugtrul), and speech incarnation (Sung tulku or Sungtrul). In spite of their efforts to consolidate the power established by the original Zhabdrung, the country sank into warring factionalism for the next 200 years. The body incarnation lineage died out in the mid-18th century, while the mind and speech incarnations of the Zhabdrung continued into the 20th century. The mind incarnation was the one generally recognized as the Zhabdrung. Besides the mind incarnation, there was also a line of claimants for the speech incarnation. At the time the monarchy was founded with British help by Ugyen Wangchuck, the penlop of Trongsa in 1907, Choley Yeshe Ngodub was the speech incarnation and served as the last Druk Desi. The royal family suffered from questions of legitimacy in its early years, with the reincarnations of the various Zhabdrungs posing a threat. The 7th Zhabdrung, Jigme Dorji was "retired" to Talo Monastery and died in 1931, the last Zhabdrung recognized by Bhutan.After his death in 1917, he was succeeded by Chogley Jigme Tenzin (1919–1949). The next claimant, Jigme Ngawang Namgyal (known as Zhabdrung Rinpoche to his followers) fled Bhutan for India in 1962 where he spent the rest of his life. His successor, Jigdrel Ngawang Namgyal, was born in 2003. Another line of claimants of the mind incarnations of Ngawang Namgyal existed in Tibet, and is now represented by Namkhai Norbu, who lives in Italy.

Bhutan’s History to date
To keep Bhutan from disintegrating, Ngawang Namgyal's death in 1651 was kept a carefully guarded secret for 54 years and he was said to have entered into a religious retreat. During the period, appointments of officials were issued in his name, and food was left in front of his locked door. Ngawang Namgyal's son and stepbrother, in 1651 and 1680, respectively, succeeded him. They started their reigns as minors under the control of religious and civil regents and rarely exercised authority in their own names. For further continuity, the concept of multiple reincarnations of the first Zhabdrung, in the form of either his body, speech, or mind, was invoked by the Je Khenpo and the Druk Desi, both of whom wanted to retain the power they had accrued through the dual system of government. The last person recognized as the bodily reincarnation of Ngawang Namgyal died in the mid-18th century, but speech and mind reincarnations, embodied by individuals who acceded to the position of Zhabdrung Rinpoche, were recognised into the early 20th century. The power of the state religion increased with a new monastic code that remained in effect in the early 1990s. The compulsory admission to monastic life of at least one son from any family of 3 or more sons was instituted in the late 17th century. However, the State Council became increasingly secular as did the successive Druk Desi, ponlop, and dzongpon, and rivalries developed among the ponlop of Tongsa and Paro and the dzongpon of Punakha, Thimphu, and Wangdue Phodrang. During the first period of succession and further internal consolidation under the Druk Desi government, there was conflict with Tibet and Sikkim. In the 1680s, Bhutan invaded Sikkim in pursuit of a rebellious local lord. In 1700, Bhutan again invaded Sikkim, and in 1714 Tibetan forces, aided by Mongolia, invaded Bhutan but were unable to gain control. Regional rivalries contributed to the gradual disintegration of Bhutan at the time the British arrived. In the early 18th century, Bhutan developed control over the principality of Cooch Behar. The raja of Cooch Behar had sought assistance from Bhutan against the Indian Mughals in 1730, and Bhutanese political influence was not long in following. By the mid-1760s, Thimphu considered Cooch Behar its dependency, stationing a garrison force there and directing its civil administration. When the Druk Desi invaded Sikkim in 1770, Cooch Behari forces joined their Bhutanese counterparts in the offensive. In a succession dispute in Cooch Behar two years later, however, the Druk Desi's nominee for the throne was opposed by a rival who invited British troops, and, in effect, Cooch Behar became a dependency of the British East India Company. Under the Cooch Behari agreement with the British, a British expeditionary force drove the Bhutanese garrison out of Cooch Behar and invaded Bhutan in 1772–73. The Druk Desi petitioned Lhasa for assistance from the Panchen Lama, who was serving as regent for the youthful Dalai Lama. In correspondence with the British governor general of India, however, the Panchen Lama instead punished the Druk Desi and invoked Tibet's claim of suzerainty over Bhutan.
Failing to receive help from Tibet, the Druk Desi signed a Treaty of Peace with the British East India Company, 1774. Bhutan agreed to return to its pre-1730 boundaries, paid a symbolic tribute of 5 horses to Britain, and in subsequent missions to Bhutan by the British commerce was opened between British India and Bhutan, and, for a short time, Tibet. Boundary disputes plagued Bhutanese–British relations. To reconcile their differences, Bhutan sent an emissary to Calcutta in 1787, and the British sent missions to Thimphu in 1815 and 1838. The 1815 mission was inconclusive. The 1838 mission offered a treaty providing for extradition of Bhutanese officials responsible for incursions into Assam, free and unrestricted commerce between India and Bhutan, and settlement of Bhutan's debt to the British. In an attempt to protect its independence, Bhutan rejected the British offer. Despite increasing internal disorder, Bhutan had maintained its control over a portion of the Assam Duars more or less since its reduction of Cooch Behar to a dependency in the 1760s. Tension began to rise as Britain exerted its strength. Bhutanese payments of annual tribute to the British for the Assam Duars gradually fell into arrears. British demands for payment led to military incursions into Bhutan in 1834, resulting in defeat for Bhutan's forces and a temporary loss of territory. The British annexed the formerly Bhutanese-controlled Assam Duars. Charges and counter-charges of border incursions and protection of fugitives led to an unsuccessful Bhutanese mission to Calcutta in 1852. Among other demands, the mission sought increased compensation for its former Duars territories; instead the British deducted nearly 3,000 rupees from the annual compensation and demanded an apology for alleged plundering of British-protected lands by members of the mission. The Sepoy Rebellion in India in 1857-58 and the demise of the British East India Company's rule prevented immediate British action. Bhutanese armed forces raided Sikkim and Cooch Behar in 1862, seizing people, property, and money. Britain sent a peace mission to Bhutan in early 1864, in the wake of the recent conclusion of a civil war there. The dzongpon of Punakha, who had emerged victorious, had broken with the central government and set up a rival Druk Desi, while the legitimate Druk Desi sought the protection of the ponlop of Paro and was later deposed. The British mission dealt alternately with the rival ponlop of Paro and the ponlop of Tongsa (acting on behalf of the Druk Desi), but Bhutan rejected the peace treaty. Britain declared war in 1864. Bhutan had no regular army, and what forces existed were composed of dzong guards armed with matchlocks, bows and arrows, swords, knives, and catapults. Some of these dzong guards, carrying shields and wearing chainmail armor, engaged the well-equipped British forces. The Duar War (1864/5) lasted 5 months and Bhutan’s defeat. Under the terms of the Treaty of Sinchula, November 11, 1865, Bhutan ceded Assam Duars, Bengal Duars, and Dewangiri in return for an annual subsidy of 50,000 rupees. In the 1870s and 1880s, renewed competition among regional rivals, primarily the pro-British ponlop of Tongsa and the anti-British, pro-Tibetan ponlop of Paro, resulted in the ascendancy of Ugyen Wangchuck, the Ponlop of Tongsa. Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies and united the country following several civil wars and rebellions in 1882-85. After 1,000 years of close ties with Tibet, Bhutan faced the threat of British military power and was forced to make geo-political decisions. The British, seeking to offset Russian advances in Lhasa, wanted to open trade relations with Tibet. Ugyen Wangchuck, on the advice of his closest adviser Ugyen Dorji, saw the opportunity to assist the British and in 1903-4 volunteered to accompany a British mission to Lhasa as a mediator. For his services in securing the Anglo-Tibetan Convention of 1904, Ugyen Wangchuck was knighted. Ugyen Wangchuck's emergence as the national leader coincided with the realisation that the dual political system was obsolete and ineffective. He had removed his chief rival, the ponlop of Paro, and installed a supporter and relative, a member of the pro-British Dorji family, in his place. When the last Zhabdrung died in 1903 and a reincarnation had not appeared by 1906, civil administration came under the control of Ugyen Wangchuck. Finally, in 1907, the 54th and last Druk Desi was forced to retire, and despite recognitions of subsequent reincarnations of Ngawang Namgyal, the Zhabdrung system came to an end.

Posted by PetersF 14:45 Archived in Bhutan Tagged bhutan paro punakha Comments (0)

Bhutan Tiger’s Nest

Paro Taktshang

September 23rd Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan

We left fairly promptly after breakfast to drive 10km to the car park at the bottom of the trek to Tiger’s Nest. From here we were recommended to hire some horses to take us half way. They didn’t mind what currency we paid in, although I think their exchange rates were a little inventive! The horses went along a wooded path initially and past a pretty stone hut on a stream, before heading quite steeply up the sandy paths. This hut housed a water-powered prayer wheel, set in motion by the flowing stream. Luckily the horse knew exactly where they were headed and simply got on with it. We arrived at a viewpoint with a hut, which looked over to the monastery on the other side of the ravine, which is known by the name “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava”. This small hut marked a Lhakhang (village temple). This is the view point for visitors and there is a cafeteria to provide refreshments. Here we left our horses and walked a short way to the cafe and temple of Urgyan Tsemo which, like the main monastery, is located on a rocky plateau with a precipitous projection of several hundred feet over the valley, to go to the toilet and pick up some water.

As it was 3,100m here we took a Diamox to be sensible. Interestingly mountaineering is forbidden in Bhutan, as is any ascent of a peak above 6000m (a hangover from pre-Buddhist days when mountains were, and still are, considered sacred places for the gods). Then we headed up the sandstone path towards the forest. Along the trek blue pine trees, prayer flags, small waterfalls and overhangs containing butter lamps (for the dead) were seen. Drubchus (Holy Water) are believed to have been created miraculously by saints. There are five drubchus on the route to Taktshang. These are Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye Drubchu, Gurui Drubchu, Machig Phug Drubchu, Shelkarchu and one founded by Phadampa Sangye near the Zangtopelri Lhakhang. The rocky plateau is known as “Hundred Thousand Fairies” or Bumda (hBum-brag). Tshoyal Pangchung Before reaching Shelkarchu waterfall we crossed Tshogyal Pangchung, “the lawn of Khandro Yeshe Tshogyal”, where Guru Rinpoche bequeathed teachings to his wife Yeshe. After a while we reached the steps that wound us down into the ravine, with small temple stops on the way. At the bottom was a large waterfall, which continued on down (as we were halfway up the gorge. The waterfall fell 60m into a sacred pool which had the bridge to the opposite side. We wet our heads in the sacred pool for good karma, before heading on up the steps the other side. The waterfall, known as Shelkar Zar is believed to be the Drupchu (holy water) of one hundred thousand dakinis. Beside the waterfall is the main seat of Guru Rinpoche on a rock where he preached to his consort Khando Yeshey Tshogyal. As a blessing, he gave his crystal rosaries to Khando Yeshey Tshogyal and thereafter the area came to be known as Shelkar Zar. On the left side of Shelkar Zar is a small meditation cave in which Khando Yeshey Tshogyal and Guru Rinpoche meditated. The stone seems to resembles a snow lion’s face and therefore the cave is known as Shengye Phug (Lion’s Cave), see pic left. Machig phug (cave), located above the waterfall’s ravine is where Machig Labdron, the incarnation of Khandro Yesho Tsogyal mediated. Her footprint can be seen inside. Above that there is a cave where the stream flows over the waterfall called Sengye Phug where Guru Rinpoche mediated on Vajrakeli, the deity of the magic dagger.
Phurpa Lhatsho is the Spirit-lake created by the waterfall. It is believed that those who disturbs the Tsho faces divine retaliation. The track terminated at the main monastery where colourful paintings were displayed. We could see the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated but it is only open for public viewing once a year. We stowed out backpacks (no cameras allowed) in a locker and took the free tea and sweets on offer (too sickly for me, but Steve was keen). Some students were fundraising for the temple, so we bought some more karma before heading into the complex.
PS I counted the steps on the way back and it was 700 each side.

Tsatsas (wax or butter candles to remember the dead; Old Man’s or Spanish Beard
History of Taktsang In 853, Langchen Pelkyi Singye came to the cave to meditate and gave the name Pelphug to the cave, "Pelkyi's cave". From the 11th century, Tibetan lamas came to Taktsang to meditate, inc Milarepa (1040–1123), Pha Dampa Sangye (d1117), yogi Machig Labdrön (1055–1145), Thangton Gyelpo (1385–1464). The complex is, well, complex, with a variety of different rooms, temples, etc. Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Hermitage on the face of a sheer 1000m cliff, is sacred to the Bhutanese as they believe Guru Rinpoche, the father of Bhutanese Buddhism came here on the back of a tigress. In the late 12th century, the Lapa School (sect) was established in Paro and between 12-17th century, many Tibetan Lamas established monasteries in Bhutan. The first sanctuary here dates to the 14th century when Sonam Gyeltshen, a Nyingmapa lama of the Kathogpa branch arrived. The 1408 paintings he brought can still be faintly discerned on a rock above the main building, the Taktsang Ugyen Tsemo. Taktsang remained under the authority of the Kathogpa lamas until the mid 17th century. Paro Taktsang Goemba (Dzongkha: ) Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Tiger's Nest) was first built in 1692, around Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava (Rinpoche) is said to have meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours in 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary saint of the country. Paro Taktsang is the best known of 13 taktsang (tiger lair caves) in which he meditated. The temple to Padmasambhava (Guru mTshanbrgyad Lhakhang= Temple of the Guru with 8 Names) is an elegant structure built around the cave in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. According to legend Padmasambhava flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong. This place was consecrated to tame the Tiger demon. An alternative legend says Yeshe Tsogyal, the wife of an emperor, became a disciple of Rinpoche in Tibet, transformed herself into a tigress and carried him on her back to Taktsang. Tenzin Rabgye was believed to be Rinpoche reincarnated. Ngawang Namgyal of the Drukpa subsect, fled Tibet to Bhutan to escape persecution by the opposing sect of the Gelugpa order (which dominated Tibet under the Dalai Lamas). The monastery is located 10 km north of Paro and hangs on a precarious cliff at 3,120 m. The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings built into the rock face.
Padmasambhava on Paro Bridge
Odsel (Yoesel) Phug (cave) located to the left of the entrance main monastic complex is where the self-created Buddha Amitayus and pagsam-shing (wish-fulfilling tree) can be seen.

Guru Rinpoche
Ngawang Namgyal (later granted the honorific Zhabdrung Rinpoche 1594–1651) and known colloquially as Bearded Lama, was a Tibetan Buddhist lama and unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. As well as unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he sought to create a Bhutanese cultural identity separate from Tibetan culture from which it was derived. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was born at Ralung Monastery, Tibet as the son of the Drukpa lineage-holder Mipham Tenpa'i Nyima. On his father's side Ngawang Namgyal descended from the family line of Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), the founder of the Drukpa Lineage. In his youth Ngawang Namgyal was enthroned as the 18th Drukpa or throne-holder and "hereditary prince" of the traditional Drukpa seat and estate of Ralung and recognized there as the immediate reincarnation of the 4th Drukchen, the "Omniscient" Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (1527–92), himself the 4th reincarnation of Gyalwang Drukpa. His recognition and enthronement as the Drukpa incarnation was opposed by Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo, an influential follower of Drukpa Pema Karpo, who promoted the recognition of a rival candidate, Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo, an illegitimate son of the Chongje Depa, Ngawang Sönam Dragpa, as the Gyalwang Drukpa incarnation. Lhatsewa and supporters of the Chongje Depa conducted an enthronement ceremony of Pagsam Wangpo as the incarnation of Künkhyen Pema Karpo/ Gyalwang Drukpa. The Chongje Depa then persuaded the Tsang Desi (or Depa Tsangpa), the most powerful ruler in Tibet and patron of the rival Karma Kagyu sect, to recognise Pagsam Wangpo as Gyalwang Drukpa/ Künkhyen Pema Karpo. By 1612 the Tsang Desi, Karma Phuntsok Namgyal had gained control. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal continued to live at the main Drukpa seat of Ralung, as the main Drukpa hereditary lineage– holder, and legitimate throne-holder at Ralung Monastery, the traditional seat of the Drukpa Lineage. However following a misunderstanding Shabdrung (Zhabdrung) Rinpoche and his party had with an important Karma Kagyu lama, Pawo Tsugla Gyatsho [1568–1630], the Tsang Desi demanded compensation and that the sacred religious relics of Ralung (such as the Rangjung Kharsapani) should be surrendered to him so he could give them to the rival Gyalwang Drukpa incarnate Gyalwa Pagsam Wangpo. The Tsang Desi prepared to send armed guards to arrest Shabdrung Rinpoche and enforce his demands. In 1616 facing arrest, and following visions (in which it is said that the chief guardian deities of Bhutan offered him a home) Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal left Tibet to establish a new base in western Bhutan, founding Chagri/Cheri Monastery at the head of Thimphu valley. In 1629 he built Simtokha Dzong at the entrance to Thimphu valley. From this dzong he could exert control over traffic between the powerful Paro valley to the west and Trongsa valley to the east. He consolidated control over western Bhutan subduing rivals belonging to the Lhapa, a branch of the Drikung Kagyu sect which had built some of the original dzongs in Bhutan, including Punakha Dzong in 1637-38. The Drukpa Kagyu, the Lhapa Kagyu and the Nenyingpa had all controlled parts of western Bhutan since the 12th century. Later he conquered and unified all Bhutan, but allowed the ancient Nyingma sect to continue in central/ eastern Bhutan. In 1627, the first European visitors to Bhutan (the Portuguese Jesuits Estevao Cacella and João Cabral) found the Shabdrung to be a compassionate and intelligent host, of high energy and fond of art and writing. In 1634, in the Battle of Five Lamas Ngawang Namgyal prevailed over the Tibetan and Bhutanese forces allied against him and was the first to unite Bhutan into a single country. Zhabdrung also established the distinctive dual system of government under the Tsa Yig legal code, by which control of the country was shared between a spiritual leader (the Je Khenpo) to preside over the religious institutions and an administrative leader (the Druk Desi) as head of secular affairs, a policy which exists in modified form to this day. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal died in 1651, and power effectively passed to the penlops (local governors) instead of to a successor Shabdrung. In order to forestall a dynastic struggle and a return to warlordism, they conspired to keep the death of the Zhabdrung secret for 54 years. During this time they issued orders in his name, explaining that he was on an extended silent retreat.
Paro Taktsang consists of 8 caves, 4 main temples and a group of residential shelters designed by adapting to the rock ledges and rocky terrain. Each building has a balcony with views over the deep valley. The buildings are interconnected through stone steps along with several wooden bridges. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha. Of the 8 caves, 4 are relatively easy to access. The entrance to the main cave is through a narrow passage. It holds 12 images of Bodhisattvas with butter lamps burning in front of these idols. Paintings can be found on the walls of the monastery along with a sacred scripture kept in an adjoining small cell. The scripture is so important it has been printed with gold dust and crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. We went up the steps and through the first small temple, turning quickly to the right and into a small egg-shaped courtyard with a retaining wall. Here in a small passage to the drubkhang was the famous rock “Do Nyinda Marmo”. It bears the sun and moon’s imprints and is said to be the mouth of the treasure (in Bhutan this is revealed wisdoms, not gold and silver) of Gondue. The legend is that you stand a length away (further than you can touch the rock), then close your eyes, fall forward and try to land with your thumb on the black spot. If you land on the spot within 3 goes you will have good luck and a wish. I was really close, but Steve managed it on his 3rd go. The monastic complex contains Ten Lhakhangs (temples) :
➔ Drubkhang
➔ Sungjonma Lhakhang,
➔ Kudung Chorten and Chorten Lhakhang
➔ Guru Tshangyad Lhakhang
➔ Droloe Lhakhang
➔ Namsey Lhakhang
➔ Tshemaped Lhakhang
➔ Neykhang Lhakhang
➔ Marmey Dag Sum Lhakhang
➔ Sengye Phug Lhakhang
and 9 sacred caves (phug) :
! Machig Phug
! Sengye Phug
! Pel Phug
! Droloe Phug
! Odsel (Yoesel) Phug
! Gedig Phug
! Chogyal (Choegyal) Phug
! Kapali Phug
! Phagmoi Phug
Then a few pace into the small courtyard to take off your shoes. To our left was the first staircase (taken afterwards) and the entrance to the first level of temples, of which the main one, straight in, was the room where guru Rinpoche meditated. Drubkhang, to the lower right of the entrance stairway is the cave where Guru Rinpoche and Langchen Pelgyi Sengye meditated.
It contains a statue of Guru Dorje Drolo, one of the 8 Manifestations of Rinpoche, in wrathful form riding upon a tigress with which he flew to Taktshang, and several statues of Phurpai Kyilkhor, said to have been erected by Niwari artisan Pentsa Dewa during the reign of Desi Tenzin Rabgye. The cave holds the phurbu (ritual dagger) of the guru. This cave is Taktshang’s inner sanctum. Holy water flows from the cave stone surface even on the driest days when pilgrims pray before it. It contained a huge image of Guru Dorje Drolo and was moderately busy, too much for meditation anyway. The attached cave was where Padmasmabhava first came, riding the Tiger, and is known as Tholu Phug and next cave where he meditated is known as Pel Phug. He directed the spiritually enlightened monks to build the monastery here. Guru Rinpoche mediated here for three months over the deities of the magic dagger and today the set of magic daggers (Phurpai Ethram) are preserved here. The monastery is so precariously perched that it is said: "it clings to the side of the mountain like a gecko". The main cave is entered through a narrow passage. The dark cave houses a dozen images of Bodhisattvas and an elegant image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara). In an adjoining small cave, the sacred scripture is placed; the importance of this scripture is that it has been scripted with gold dust and the crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. Coming back out we picked up our shoes (you leave a different way) and ascended the wood over stone staircase to the middle level. At the top of the staircase was a covered wooden passage leading to an even small courtyard where we could leave our shoes again. On our right we entered into the temple of Guru Sungjoen, the “speaking” guru whose statue reputedly spoke (or sang) while being transported (to say who would be able to carry him). Sungjonma Lhakhang contains Guru Sungjonma’s statue sculptured by Pentsa Deva.
The most skilled artisans from Nepal, Pentsa Dewa, Dharma and Dharmashri erected the statue of Guru Sungjoen. This temple contains other beautiful paintings of the eight manifestation of Guru, the cycle of Lama Gongdue and Tshepamed, the god of longevity. Guru Sungjonma Lhakhang has a central image of Pema Jungme, another of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. There are shrines to Guru Tshengyad (Rinpoche) and Naypoi. On the inner left corner is the Dorlo Lhakhang, the temple dedicated to Guru Dorji Dorlo, which had been installed by Late Lama Sonam Zangpo. In the main building, there are three temples.
We came out and followed the sign “Temples” with an arrow to some stone steps (upper level), which gave access to a large room (temple), which contained the Eight Manifestations of Rinpoche. This large temple was to Guru Tshangyad Lhakhang. The upper temple “The Temple of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche" was built under the auspices of Myangmed Chungpo from Paro and contains other interesting mural paintings. One of them depicts vividly how Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyel vanquished his Tibetan enemies. Located on top of the main building, the lhakhang is dedicated to Guru Tshangyad. It contains Guru Rinpoche’s idol flanked by his two principal consorts: Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal and Mandarawa. Outside was a courtyard/ balcony which gave amazing views of the valley.
A second temple here was Droloe Lhakhang (aka Hall of 1000 Buddhas) and it contained a life sized statue of Tshemaped, flanked by Gongdue and Guru on the right and Dorje Drolo and Phurpa on the left. It derives its name from the fact that Dorje Drolo used to be the main image in it before the fire that broke out in 1998. We could see into the Tiger’s Lair, a cave between Droloe lhakhang and Sengye Samdrup Lhakhang where that Yeshi Tshogyal lived as a tigress. A large statue of a tigeress is located here.
To the left side of this room we took some very steep stones steps to access 2 temples on 2 levels. The uppermost, to the right, Neykhang Lhakhang/ Senge (Singye) Samgrup lhakhang contained a huge image of Buddha with Rinpoche on his right and Singye Samdrup, the protective deity of Taktsang, on the left. She was standing on a tiger with many heads. This room was quieter and we were able to take some time to sit and meditate. Attached (behind) were two caves, Gedig Phug where virtuous and non-virtuous actions are separated and Chogyal (Choegyel) Phug where Chenrizig (Lord of Compassion) resides in the form of Lord of Death. Further away (and not accessible) was Droloe Phug, shaped like Dorje Droloe. The second temple, a bit lower to the right, contained the two Taras. Above this was Marmey Dag Sum Lhakhang on top of the Neykhang, and dedicated to the Kagyud lamas. It contained the images of 3 prominent Kagyud masters; Marpa, Milarepa and Dagpo Lhaje (photo).
Namsey Lhakhang is dedicated to the God of Wealth (Namthoesey/Kubera/Vaisravana) whose principal image in the room is surrounded by his attendants. Another temple a little lower was Tshemaped Lhakhang, dedicated to Tshemaped, the god of longevity. On the right of Tshemaped’s image is Drolma (Tara) while on the left is Namyalma (Vijaya). The trio is called “Tshelha Namsum”. On going down we passed the butter lamp building and Kunrey (Assembly Hall), then back to the Middle Courtyard where, to the right, we entered another temple, Kudung Chorten with
room Chorten Lhakhang.
This lhakhang contains Langchen Pelgyi Sengye’s kudung chorten. In the entrance was a roped off area. We looked down to see a crevasse, Phagmoi Phug at the centre of the cliff, and said to look like a skull. The hall also contained a rock believed to be Dorje Phagmo’s (incarnation of Dolma and a reincarnation in Tibet) skull and a drubche believed to be founded by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. Past this was the entrance to a cave behind the temple, which we took clockwise. Inside was the was the Kundung stupa which contained the remains of Langchen Pelgyri Singye. It is still believed that on auspicious days a visit to Taktshang and the chorten which contains his remains will fulfil ones wishes. Although most of the temples were decorated on the walls by paintings or embroidery, this was particularly fine and our guide explained the symbolism. The “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava” (Zangdopari) was vividly displayed in a heart shape on every thangka and painted on the walls of the monastery as a reminder of the legend. The paintings represents the realm of the King of Nagas amidst Dakinis, and the pinnacle in the painting denotes the domain of Brahma. The paintings also depict Klu (Naga) demigods with human heads and serpents bodies, said to reside in lakes (guarding the hidden treasures). Allegorically, they represent holy writings. The paintings also show “Walkers in the Sky”. The holy hill is drawn in the back with four faces painted different colours; the east face is crystal white, the south face is yellow, the west is red and the north green. The palace is depicted with four sides and eight corners and its lower and upper tiers adorned with jewels. The courtyard with four enclosures is said to represent four kinds of conduct. The walls are brick, and balconies are bejewelled with religious symbols. The ambience is shown in the form of wishing trees, fountains of the water of life, rainbows in five colours with cloud formations and light emanating from lotus flowers. The palace is shown with a bejewelled throne of eight corners. Padmasambhava is shown sitting on a pure stalk of lotus emitting divine energy appearing “divine, charitable, powerful, or fierce”. Further details show five kinds of Buddhas suppressing vicious demons (performing four pious deeds) and placed on thrones mounted over the stooping demons. The demons and Khadoms are depicted adorned and seated on four petalled/ four faced thrones enjoying a good time; the Khadoms are seen on the four-sided courtyard of the palace and on all side walls. The scene is embellished around a Guru Rinpoche (Padmashambahava) image and gods/ goddesses in the heavens. Gate keepers at the four gates have an army trying to crush the demons to dust. The supporting staff shown are said to represent the Himalayan tribes of pre-Buddhist periods.
This was our last temple and we found our shoes once more, collected our belongings and set off back to the steps. Looking up just to the right we saw the higher, smaller temples of Taktshang Zangdo Pari and Urgyan Tsemo. Zangdopelri is the place where Padmasmbahava’s wife, the “Fairy of Wisdom”, Yeshe Tsogyal (Ye-shes mtsho- rgyal), founded Mon-Taktshang convent. Urgyan Tsemo, the “Peak of Urgyan” has a small Mani Lakhang. The prayer wheel, turned by an old monk, resounds with chimes heard every day at 4 am. Above the Urgyan is the holy cave 'Phaphug Lhakhang' (dPal-phug IHa-khang), with the main shrine of the Taktshang and the residence of the Head Lama, Karma Thupden Chokyi Nyenci.

FIRE The monastery first burnt down in 1951 when a woman preparing her land by burning the old stalks, let the fire get out of control. King Jigme Wangchuck ordered the entire population of Tsento village to rebuild the four temples of Taktshang as they did not help in controlling the fire. Above Taktshang two smaller temples in the group known as Shama, Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tsemo were built. Kapali Phug near Shama Lhakhang, has an oral traditions that it can subjugate demons and spirits. On April 19, 1998, a fire, probably caused by butter lamps, broke out in the main building of the monastery complex, which contained valuable paintings, artefacts and statues. Most of the buildings were burned down and a monk was killed during the blaze. Since the temple is difficult to access, emergency assistance was impossible. However, the monastery has since been meticulously rebuilt to its original form in 2005 by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan and the Government of Bhutan at a cost of 135 million ngultrum (£1.8 million). Our guide’s brother was one of the wood carvers involved, a fact of which he was very proud.

A note of terma treasures
Terma are spiritual treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal in the earth and in the minds of disciples to be revealed at the appropriate time by ‘treasure revealers’ or tertöns. Many of these ter were collected by Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo into more than 60 volumes, the Rinchen Terdzö, or Treasury of Precious Termas. The Terma lineage, together with the Nyingma Kama, are the two modes of transmission of the teachings of the Nyingma School. Terma are divided into two categories, according to the manner in which they were concealed/ discovered:
" earth terma- physical objects
" mind terma- discovered within the mindstream of the tertön.
To discover earth termas, earthly materials such as symbolic script written on yellow scroll are used to awaken the terma in the mind of the tertön. For mind termas, no external objects are needed. In many instances, seeing or hearing symbolic words or sounds in visions causes the discovery of the terma.
" Another type of terma in the Nyingma tradition are pure vision teachings
The Terma tradition originally comes from Tibet, where it is still commonly believed, and was enthusiastically adopted in Bhutan, where most Bhutanese believe each generation is waiting for their treasures to be discovered. In the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, the tradition of concealment and revelation of teachings and materials of religious value through the mystical power of enlightened beings is most prevalent by far. This tradition of mystical discovery is known in Tibet and Bhutan as Ter ('Treasures'), Terma ('Treasured Ones'), or Terchö ('Dharma Treasures' or 'Treasured Teachings'). The main source of the Terma tradition of the Nyingma school is Guru Padmasambhava. While transmitting esoteric teachings to his disciples in Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava concealed many teachings with his enlightened mind stream in the intrinsic awareness of the minds of his disciples through the power of “mind-mandated transmission”; thereby master and disciple became united as one in the teachings and realisation. However, the master also concealed some teachings, blessings, and esoteric attainments, as ter in the pure nature of the minds of his disciples with the aspiration that the ter may be discovered for the sake of people when the appropriate time comes. In propagating the Buddha’s teachings amid the shamanistic society that dominated Tibet at that time, Padmasambhava saw clearly that some teachings would have to wait for a more appropriate time to take root. He concealed them until certain great practitioners could reveal them and bring them to fruition.

The area has a lot of caves where many Buddhist masters came to spend time in meditation. The foremost of these was Langchen Pelgi Sengye (Singye), in 853 AD, one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche, so his cave was named Pel-phug (cave/phug of Pelgi). Langchen Pelgi Sengye went to Nepal after this spell of meditation in Taktshang and died there. However, Damchen Dorji Legpa (a Tibetan demon subjugated by Padmasambhava and oath bound as a dharma protector and safeguarder of the Revealed Treasure texts (Terma) of the Nyingma Tradition of Buddhism) is said to have brought back his kudung (bone relic), and hidden it as a terma (treasure). It was later revealed (discovered) and is preserved today in Kundung Chorten. The site was later used by many other Buddhist saints and masters including Milarepa (1040=1123), Thangthong Gyalpo (1385-1464) “Iron bridge builder” who discovered a terma treasure text here, and Phajo Dugom Zhigpo.
Khuru player
Taktsang (lit Tak = ‘tiger’ and Tshang = ‘nest’) was under the charge of the Kathogpa lama since 14th century. Kathogpa lam Yeshi Bum (1245-1311) visited Taktsang where he intended to build a temple, but his wish remained unfulfilled until 1508 when his nephew and disciple, Sonam Gyaltshen built the temple of Ugyen Tsemo above Taktsang. In 1646, Zhabdrung invited Lopon Rigzin Nyingpo, the descendent of Terton Sangye Lingpa (1340-1396) from Kongpo in Tibet. They visited Taktsang and took control of Taktsang including Ugyen Tsemo from Kathogpa Lama. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who conducted Monlam Chenmo/ Phurpai Kyikhor (the great prayer ceremony), and Drubchen (consecration ceremony) for a week in honour of Tshepamed - Amitayus and formally took charge of Taktshang. He appointed Jinpa Gyeltshen, the brother of 4th Druk Tenzin Rabgye, as the Taktshang Lama, which was then still a small shrine. Zhabdrung wished to build a temple at the site where the Taktsang now stands, but had to wait as the construction of Paro Rinpung Dzong was underway. Soon after Tenzin Rabgye (architect) laid the foundations of Taktsang Monastery and construction began on the 10th day of the Water Monkey Year 1692. The two storey monastery was completed in the Wood Dog Year 1694. The first Lama installed was Sakya Tenzin.

On finishing our visit, we collected our belonging and set off back down the mountain. Surprisingly quick, our guide announced we had taken 6 hours to go up, look around and return. A respectable time, a little faster than average on the walking section (good for us!) We then drove back towards Paro. On the way we stopped first at Kichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang was originally a small structure, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in the 7th C by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across Tibet, so he pinned her down. Over the years the temple was visited and blessed by many famous Buddhist saints including Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, Lam Kha Nga and Phajo Dugom Zhigpo to list few. Many expanded the temple. One such was Je Sherub Gyeltshen who lived in the 18th century. He extended the Jowo Lhakhang and added many new statues. The latest extension was carried out in 1965 under the initiative of the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. She added a new structure to the temple known as Guru Lhakhang. As one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, the temple has many relics. The inner hall of the main Jowo Lhakhang conceals the valley’s greatest treasure, an original 7th century statue of Jowo Shakyamuni, believed to be cast at the same time as its famous counterpart in Lhasa. Guru Lhakhang temple contains 5m high statues of Guru Rinpoche and Red Tara (Kurukulla) with bow and arrows. Also in here is the chorten containing the ashes of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a revered Nyingma Buddhist teacher who was cremated nearby in 1992. As you enter the inner courtyard you'll see a mural to the right of the doorway of King Gesar of Ling, the popular Tibetan warrior-king, whose epic poem is said to be the world's longest. The ornately carved wooden pillars are superb, as are the snow lions that support the flower pots.
Kyichu Lhakhang

Then it was only a short trip to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong monastery. Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of the Victorious Bhutanese) was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over marauding Tibetan armies. Though the fortress was destroyed by fire in 1951, the ruins remain an impressive and imposing sight. Interestingly there was a game of Khuru, a national game that involved two teams through darts into a target approximately 20m away. If your dart hit the target you added a coloured scarf to your belt, making some men quite multi-coloured. We stayed for a while admiring their skill before heading back to hotel http://khangkhuresort.com/ for a rest.
That night Mr Rai offered to take us to some relatives to taste a proper Bhutanese meal. We drove out over Nyamai Zampa bridge (traditional cantilever and covered with ancient wall paintings) into the countryside, before literally leaving the road and driving through rice fields to arrive at a farmhouse. This was the traditional 3 storey house (by law houses are not allowed to be over 3 storeys, and their design in a traditional fashion is strictly controlled) and we took off our shoes and walked up the ladder to the second floor, which is where you traditionally eat. We sat cross legged on mats on the floor (the proper way) as our hosts brought us the local starting drinks. First up was ara, a Bhutanese rice wine and very potent. This was followed by Bhutanese tea (very sweet, like condensed milk had been added) and butter tea (suja, yummy, and that is literally what is was). Then the food arrived in large pots which were placed centrally on the floor for us to take directly from. We used a fork, but our hosts just used their hands to eat. The dishes included

  • Ema Datshi (chilies and cheese) like a stew or curry, made of green, yellow or red chilies, yak or cow’s milk, cheese, onions and tomatoes. Taste VERY carefully; the chilies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and meant to make you warm enough to sweat. Steve loved this, but it was too hot for me.
  • Jasha Maroo or Maru (spicy chicken), A mix of chilies, onion, tomato, garlic, coriander leaves and ginger with finely diced chicken. Though often called stew, there’s actually a hefty portion of liquid (chicken broth) in the finished dish. Like most Bhutanese food, chicken comes with bones intact.
  • Phaksha Paa (Pork with Red Chilies), a classic Bhutanese stew of strips of boneless pork shoulder simmered slowly until tender with mooli (daikon radish), ginger, bok choy, and chili powder, topped with dried pork and fresh green chilli strips.
  • Red Rice, is to Bhutanese food as bread is to us, but the rice is probably healthier. The rice paddies of Paro Valley where red rice is grown are irrigated with mineral-rich glacier water. Just one serving gives 80% of your daily requirement for manganese and 20% of your need for phosphorus. The red colour of the uncooked rice comes from the cancer-fighting antioxidant, the flavonoid anthocyanin. As it cooks, it fades to a pale pink and the texture becomes soft and sticky.

❖ Interestingly no one in Bhutan (or Tibet, but for a different reason) eats fish. Fishing has been prohibited and the only person in Bhutan you will EVER see with a rod is the king, who has exempted himself.
All delicious, and certainly up Steve’s street. We chatted for a while, before thanking our hosts and going back down to the ground floor which are the living quarters (kitchen, larder and what would have been called the front room in old days as it was for family gatherings and ceremonies, which is why it had photos of the royal family who are really loved in Bhutan). Then, back to the hotel and bed.

Constitution of Bhutan
The Druk Desi (Deva Raja) was the title of the secular (administrative) rulers of Bhutan under the dual system of government between 17th-19th centuries. Under this system, government authority was divided among secular and religious administrations, unified under the nominal authority of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche. Druk, meaning "thunder dragon", refers symbolically to Bhutan, whose most ancient name is Druk-yul. Desi, meaning "regent", was the chief secular office in realms under this system of government. The office of Druk Desi was established by the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century under the dual system of government. Having fled sectarian persecution in Tibet, Ngawang Namgyal established the Drukpa Lineage as the state religion. Under the Bhutanese system, the powers of the government were split between the religious branch headed by the Je Khenpo of the Drukpa Lineage and the civil administrative branch headed by the Druk Desi. Both the Je Khenpo and Druk Desi were under the nominal authority of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, a reincarnation of Ngawang Namgyal. The Druk Desi was either a monk or a member of the laity—by the 19th century, usually the latter; he was elected for a 3-year term, initially by a monastic council and later by the State Council (Lhengye Tshokdu). The State Council was a central administrative organ that included regional rulers, the Zhabdrung's chamberlains, and the Druk Desi. In time, the Druk Desi came under the political control of the State Council's most powerful faction of regional administrators. The
Zhabdrung was the head of state and the ultimate authority in religious and civil matters. The seat of central government was at Thimphu, the site of a 13th century dzong spring-autumn. The winter capital was at Punakha. The kingdom was divided into three regions (east, central, west), each with an appointed penlop (governor), holding a seat in a major dzong. Districts were headed by dzongpens (district officers), who had their head-quarters in lesser dzongs. The penlops were a combination of tax collector, judge, military commander, and procurement agent for the central government. Their major revenues came from the trade between Tibet and India and from land taxes. It is believed that the death of Ngawang Namgyal in 1651 was concealed for 50 years as authorities sought his reincarnated successor. At first the system persisted, however the Druk Desi gradually gained political power and civil wars ensued. Once a reincarnation was found, the Druk Desi was unwilling to part with his acquired power, and the power of the Zhabdrung gradually declined. Similarly, the Druk Desi also lost control over the local rulers and penlops (governors). The country devolved into several semi-independent regions under the control of penlops. In practice, the Zhabdrung was often a child under the control of the Druk Desi, and regional penlops administered their districts in defiance of the Druk Desi. The Constitution of Bhutan, 2008, confirms Bhutan's commitment to the dual system of government, but the title "Druk Desi" never appears, and all administrative powers are vested in the Druk Gyalpo and civilian offices directly. The Druk Gyalpo appoints the Je Khenpo on advice of the Five Lopons (learned masters), and the democratic Constitution itself is the supreme law of the land, as opposed to a Zhabdrung figurehead.

Posted by PetersF 15:47 Archived in Bhutan Tagged bhutan paro tiger's_nest taktshang Comments (0)

Bhutan to Nepal

over the Himalayas

September 24th Bhutan to Nepal

from left Cho Oyu, Ngozumpa Kang II 7743m(white rounded one), Lobuche Ost (lower, directly in front Gyanchung), Gyanchung Kang 7952m (higher point, mid pic), Pumo Ri 7161m, Ama Dablam 6856m, Nuptse (ridge), Everest, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar, Shartse, Peak 41, Baruntse, Kangchungtse
We left fairly promptly in the morning (after a ridiculous contretemps regarding paying £8 for a bottle of wine- their card machine didn’t work- their fault clearly, and we hadn’t been able to get Bhutanese money- not our fault as the ATMs don’t work, and they wouldn’t accept any other currency. They suggested we ask another guest to pay our bill!! Luckily our guide paid for us, but well....)

Anyhow, we drove to the airport and before long were on the flight back to Kathmandu. As we took off we saw Dobji Dzong, considered to be the first Dzong in Bhutan. The name Dogar, which means white border, is a reference to the “Five White Boulders” in the village of Dogar. The Dobji was built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal, the brother of Chojie Drukpa kuenley (Divine Madman). Legend has it that Ngawang Chogyal followed the spring originating below the throne of Jetsun Milarepa in Tibet to a rock located on the current location of Dobji Dzong, which was then chosen for its religious significance. Again it was a clear day and we had spectacular views of the Himalayas, including Kangchenjunga (3rd highest in world), Makalu (4th highest), Everest (highest), Lhotse (2nd highest) and Cho Oyu (5th highest), not to mention a host of other peaks. The order we passed was Kangchenjunga group (separate from the others); far away Tibet-Bhutan Himalayas (highest point Kangchendzonga) leading to the Tibetan Plain, Chomo Lonzo, Chamlang (steep right slope), Makalu (tallest point in group), Kanchungtse (Makalu II), Tutse/ Peak 6, Baruntse, Lhotse Shar-tse Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, (Changtse, Khumbutse), Pumo Ri, Ama Dablam (inc Peak 41/ Mera), Gyachung Kang, Lobuche (lower, in front Gyachung), small gap, Tenzing Peak/ Ngozumpa Kang, Cho Oyu, gap, Kangtega (bulbous), Lunag Ri massif (Melungtse, Gaurishankar), foothills to Kathmandu.
1. Kan(g)chenjunga, the world’s 3rd highest mountain, has 5 peaks (Main, Central, South, West, Kangbachen). It rises 8,586m in the Kangchenjunga Himal part of the Himalayas. Until the 1852 Trigonometrical Survey of India, Kangchenjunga was thought to be the highest, but it became clear that Everest, then known as Peak XV, was higher. Four main glaciers radiate from the peak, Zemu (the largest), Talung, Yalung, Kangchen. There are 120 glaciers in the Kanchenjunga Himal. The name Kanchinjínga (Tibetan ཆང་ཨང་ ཆིན་ ཇིང་, Nepali कंचनजंगा), means “five treasures of the high snow" referring to its 5 peaks. Lhopo people believe the treasures (salt, gold, turquoise/precious stones, sacred scriptures, invincible armour/ ammunition, grain, medicine) are hidden but revealed to the devout when the world is in peril. Kangchenjunga in Limbu is Senjelungma/ Seseylungma, and an abode of the omnipotent goddess Yuma Sammang. Kangchenjunga Main is the highest elevation of the Brahmaputra basin, which is among the largest river basins. Although the 3rd highest peak, Kangchenjunga is only 29th by topographic prominence, a measure of a mountain's independent stature. It is the 4th most prominent peak in the Himalayas, and the mid point of the western and eastern anchors of the Himalayas, Nanga Parbat and Namcha Barwa, respectively. The area around Kangchenjunga is said to be home to a mountain deity, Dzö-nga or Kangchenjunga Demon, a type of yeti or rakshasa. A British expedition in 1925 spotted a bipedal creature which the locals referred to as the "Kangchenjunga Demon". Stories by the original inhabitants, the Lepcha people, and Tibetan cultural tradition in the area around Kanchenjunga, say there is a valley of immortality hidden on its slopes. In Tibet, this valley is known as Beyul Demoshong. In 1962 a Tibetan Lama, Tulshuk Lingpa, led 300 followers into the high snow slopes of Kanchenjunga to ‘open the way’ to Beyul Demoshong (see 2011 book A Step Away from Paradise).
Kanchenjunga with Zemu Glacier to the right; next page South face and fly-over view
Zemu Glacier is the largest glacier in the Eastern Himalayas. It is 26 km long and located at the base of Kangchenjunga. The Zemu Glacier drains the east side of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. The glacier is the source of water for numerous rivers, as it feeds them when it melts. Zemu Glacier remains a less studied and monitored glacier. The glacier has receded 27m every year 1967-84. The retreat is not massive given the great length of the glacier and a thick layer of debris on the glacier prevents ablation; however, small lakes have formed on the surface of these debris-covered sections. After the Kanchenjunga group there was a section of lower (relatively) until we reached the Makalu and Everest groups.
2. Chamlang is a mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas, near Makalu with an elevation of 7,319 metres.
3. Chomo Lonzo (Chinese Zhūmùlóngsuõ Fēng, Chomolonzo,
Jomolönzo,Lhamalangch o) is in Tibet, 5 km northeast of Makalu in Mahalungur (Mohalingor) or Khumbu Himalayas. Chomo-Lonzo has three distinct summits. The Southern main peak 7804m is joined via a 7250m saddle to the Central peak 7565m, itself joined via a 7050m saddle the mountain is to a 7200m North (North West) peak. While from Nepal to mountain is overpowered by nearby Makalu, the 5th-highest peak, the 3 peaks are a very impressive and dominating sight from Kangshung valley in Tibet. The 3000m high northeast face is a challenge as yet unclimbed. Chomo Lonzo translates to bird goddess and from the East the mountain looks like a 3 km high eagle with spread wings.
4. Makalu is the 5th highest mountain in the world at 8485 m, located in the Mahalangur Himalayas 19 km SE of Everest, on the Nepal-Tibet border. One of the 8000ers, Makalu is an isolated peak whose shape is like a 4-sided pyramid. Makalu has two notable subsidiary peaks, Kangchungtse, or Makalu II 7,678m about 3 km north-northwest of the main summit and Chomo Lonzo rising about 5 km north-northeast of the main summit across a broad plateau (connected to Kangchungtse by a narrow 7,200 m saddle. After this group around Makalu there was a small gap (due mainly to the cloud) before the famous mountains, glaciers and glacial lakes clustered around Mt Everest.
5. Baruntse, in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal, is crowned by 4 peaks and bounded on the south by the Hunku Glacier, on the east by the Barun Glacier, by the Imja Glacier. 6. Peak 6/ Tutse, Peak 4 (6720m) and Peak 6 (Mount Tutse) 6739m
7. Shar Tse is located in Kosī Zone, Eastern Nepal. The elevation above sea level is 7444m. Imja Tse/ Island Peak was so named because it appears as a sea of ice when viewed from Dingboche. The peak was later renamed in 1983 Imja Tse but Island Peak remains popular. The peak is actually an extension of the ridge coming down off the south end of Lhotse Shar.
Imja Glacier originates on the western face of Kali Himal 7,057m, and skirts the southern slopes of Imja Tse, SE of Everest. It is joined by the Lhotse Shar and Ambulapcha Glaciers. The glacier forms the eastern extent of Imja Tsho (glacial lake), which in turn drains through the Dingboche valley to the Indian Ocean.
8. Lhotse: (Nepali: ल्होत्से; Tibetan: ལྷོཙེ་) is the 4th highest mountain at 8,516 m. Part of the Everest massif, Lhotse is connected to Everest via the South Col. Lhotse means “South Peak” in Tibetan. In addition to the main summit, the mountain comprises the smaller peaks Lhotse Middle (East) at 8,414 m and Lhotse Shar at 8,383 m. The summit is on the border between Tibet and Nepal. The western flank of Lhotse is known as the Lhotse Face. A climber for the South Col on Everest must climb this 1125m wall of glacial blue ice, which rises 40-50° with occasional 80° bulges. Lhotse Middle is a subsidiary peak to Lhotse, and the final 8000er climbed. It is a sharp, jagged peak rising 8,410m, and the most difficult peak over 8000m to climb. Lhotse Shar is a subsidiary mountain of Lhotse, and the 11th-highest mountain at 8,383 m. It has the highest fatality rate of all the eight-thousanders – for every two people who summit the mountain, one person dies.
from left Nuptse (ridge), Everest, Lhotse
9. Everest: Nepali Sagarmatha (सगरमाथा), Tibetan Chomolungma (ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ), is Earth's highest mountain, located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. The border between Nepal-Tibet runs across its summit. In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geo-graphical Society (recommended by Andrew Waugh, British Surveyor General of India). As there were several local names, Waugh chose the name of his predecessor, Sir George Everest. Wanting to preserve local names Kangchenjunga and Dhaulagiri, Waugh's search for a local name was hampered by Nepal and Tibet's exclusion of foreigners. Many local names existed, such as Deodungha (Holy Mountain) and Tibetan Chomolungma, which appeared on a 1733 map by French geographer D'Anville. In the 19th century, European cartographers believed the native name was Gaurishankar, in fact a mountain between Kathmandu and Everest. Tibetan for Everest is ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ (Holy Mother or Qomolangma (Chomolungma/ Jo-mo-glang- ma/ Jomo Langma).
from right Baruntse, Peak 41, Shartse, Lhotse Shar, Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, Ama Dablam 6856, Pumo Ri 7161, Gyanchung Kang 7952 (higher point, mid pic), Lobuche Ost (lower, directly in front Gyanchung), Ngozumpa Kang II 7743 (very white rounded one), Cho Oyu (steepish left slope), Kangtega 6783 (pictures show same mountains at different journey points)
The official Chinese is Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng, infrequently translated into Chinese as Shèngmǔ Fēng (Holy Mother Peak). In 2002, the Chinese People's Daily newspaper published an article against "Mt Everest", insisting the mountain should be Mt Qomolangma, based on the local Tibetan name. The article argued that British colonialists did not "discover" the mountain, as it was known to Tibetans and mapped by the Chinese as "Qomolangma" in 1719. In 1960, the Nepalese government gave the name Sagarmāthā/ Sagar-Matha सागर-मथ्था, goddess of the sky for Everest. The southern part of Everest is regarded as one of several hidden valleys designated by Padmasambhava, a 9th century "lotus- born" Buddhist saint. At the base of the north side lies Rongbuk Monastery, the sacred threshold to Mt Everest. For Sherpas living on the slopes of Everest in the Khumbu region of Nepal, Rongbuk is an important pilgrimage, a few days across the Himalayas through Nangpa La. Miyolangsangma, a Tibetan Buddhist Goddess of Inexhaustible Giving, is believed to live at the top of Everest. According to Sherpa Buddhist monks, Everest is Miyolangsangma's palace/ playground, and climbers are only partially welcome, having arrived without invitation. The Sherpa people believe Everest is blessed with spiritual energy, and one should show reverence when passing through this sacred landscape as the karmic effects of one's actions are magnified. There are 2 main climbing routes, southeast in Nepal (standard route) and north in Tibet. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather, wind, avalanches and Khumbu Icefall. Nearly 300 people have died on Everest, many of whose bodies remain on the mountain. By 2015 pollution, especially human waste, has reached critical levels with 26,500 pounds of human excrement left on the mountain each season, strewn across the route to the summit. The problem of human waste is compounded by the presence of spent oxygen tanks, abandoned tents, empty cans and bottles. The Nepalese government now requires each climber to pack 8kg of waste when descending.
10. Nuptse or Nubtse (Sherpa: ཎུཔ་ ཙེ་; Wylie: Nub rtse) is a mountain in the Khumbu region of the Mahalangur Himal, in the Nepalese Himalayas. It lies 2 km WSW of Everest. Nubtse is Tibetan for "west peak", as it is the western segment of the Lhotse-Nubtse massif. The summit of Nuptse is extremely dangerous due to loose snow with a lot of hollows, and weakly attached cornices of snow. The long east- west trending main ridge is crowned by 7 peaks. While Nuptse is a dramatic peak when viewed from the south or west, and it towers above the base camp for the standard south col route on Everest, it is not a particularly independent peak.
11. Pumori (Nepali परिवर्मी) or Pumo Ri is a mountain on the Nepal-Tibet border in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas, just 8 km west of Everest. Pumori, meaning “the Mountain Daughter” was named by George Mallory. “Pumo” means young girl/ daughter and “Ri” means mountain. Climbers sometimes refer to it as Everest’s daughter, but Mallory called it Clare Peak, after his daughter. Pumori is a popular climbing peak. An outlier of Pumori is Kala Patthar (5,643m), which appears as a brown bump of the south face of Pumori.
12. Ama Dablam is a mountain in the east Nepal Himalaya range. The main peak is 6,812m, the lower western peak is 6,170m. Ama Dablam means "Mother's necklace"; the long ridges on each side like the arms of a mother (ama) protecting her child, and the hanging glacier the dablam, the traditional double-pendant containing pictures of the gods, worn by Sherpa women. Ama Dablam is the 3rd most popular Himalayan peak for climbing. The most popular route is the Southwest Ridge (right skyline in photo). Climbers set up camps along the ridge with camp 3 just below and to the right of the hanging Dablam glacier. Any ice that calves off the glacier typically goes left, away from the camp.
13. Peak 41 (True Mera Peak) 6648m, located 8.5km N-NE of its famous lower neighbour Mera Peak (6476m), one of the most popular “trekking peaks" in Nepal. Peak 41 has a prominence of approx. 850m. Its parent mountain is Ama Dablam.
14. Khumbutse (Chinese: 坤布崎峰 Kūnbùzī Fēng); Nepali खुम्बटट; is the first mountain west (6 km) of Everest. It lies at the border between Nepal and China. Khumbutse's name indicates its location at the head of the Khumbu valley, down which the Khumbu Glacier flows.
15. Changtse (Tibetan: "north peak") is situated between the Main Rongbuk and East Rongbuk Glaciers in Tibet, immediately north of Everest. It is connected to Mount Everest via the North Col. Changtse Glacier flows north into the East Rongbuk Glacier. It is possible that the third highest lake in the world is in the Changtse Glacier at 6,216 m.
Khumbu Icefall
Khumbu Icefall is an icefall located at the head of Khumbu Glacier and the foot of the Western Cwm, at an altitude of 5,486 m on the Nepali slopes of Mount Everest, not far above Base Camp and southwest of the summit. The icefall is considered one of the most dangerous stages of the South Col route to Everest's summit. Khumbu glacier forms an icefall and moves at such speed that large crevasses open with little warning, and the large towers of ice (seracs) found at the icefall have been known to collapse suddenly. Huge blocks of ice tumble down the glacier from time to time, their size ranging from that of cars to large houses. It is estimated that the glacier advances 0.9 to 1.2 m down the mountain every day. Most climbers try to cross the icefall during the very early morning, before sunrise, when it has partially frozen during the night. As the intense sunlight warms the area, the friction between the ice structure lessens and increases the chances of crevasses opening or blocks of ice falling. Strong climbers can ascend the icefall in a few hours, while climbers going through it for the first time, or lacking experience, tend to make the journey in 10–12 hours.
16. Gyachung Kang (Nepali: गय् ाचुङ्काङ, Gy'chung K'ng; Chinese Gézhòngk'ng F#ng) 7,952m is a mountain in the Mahalangur Himal section of the Himalaya, and the highest peak between Cho Oyu (8,201 m) and Everest (8,848 m). It lies on the border between Nepal and China. As the 15th highest peak in the world, it is also the highest peak under 8000 m; hence it is less well-known than the lowest of the eight- thousanders, which are only about 100 m higher. The peak's lack of significant prominence (700 m) also contributes to its relative obscurity.
17. Lobuche (Lobuje) is a Nepalese mountain close to Khumbu Glacier. There are two main peaks, Lobuche East (6,119m) and Lobuche West (6,145m). As the easier, trekking peak, the East peak is climbed far more frequently than the West peak. Between the two peaks is a long deeply notched ridge.
18. Tenzing Peak/ Ngozumpa Kang is the name which has been proposed by the Government of Nepal for a 7,916m peak in the Himalayas in honour of Tenzing Norgay, who made the first ascent of Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953. It is also known as Ngojumba Kang, Ngozumpa Kang and Ngojumba Ri. Ngozumpa glacier, below Cho Oyu, at 36 kilometres, is the longest glacier in the Himalayas. Ngozumpa Glacier is a large persistent body of ice. It flows slowly due to stresses induced by its weight.
19. Cho Oyu (Nepali: चो ओयु; Tibetan: ཆོ་ ཨོཡུ་) is the 6th highest mountain in the world at 8,188 m. Cho Oyu means Turquoise Goddess in Tibetan. The mountain is the westmost major peak of the Khumbu sub section of the Mahalangur Himalaya 20km west of Everest on the China-Nepal border. Just 2 km west of Cho Oyu is Nangpa La 5,716m, a glaciated pass that is the main trading route between Tibet and Khumbu's Sherpas as it separates the Khumbu and Rolwaling Himalayas. Due to its proximity to this pass and the moderate slopes of the northwest ridge, Cho Oyu is considered the easiest 8,000 metre peak to climb.
20. Kangtega, aka The Snow Saddle, is a major mountain peak of the Himalayas in Nepal. Its summit rises 6,782 metres

After this group there was quite a gap, followed by a set of mountains in the Rolwaling Himal section of the Himalayas. The two major mountains in this group, which crosses the Nepal-Tibet-India border, are Gaurishankar and Melungtse.
21.Gaurishankar (Gauri Sankar; Devanagari गौरीशंकर; Tibetan: Jomo Tseringma) is a mountain in the Himalayas, the 2nd highest peak of the Rolwaling Himal, behind Melungtse (7,181m). The name comes from the Hindu goddess Gauri, a manifestation of Durga, and her Consort Shankar, denoting the sacred regard to which it is afforded it by the peoples of Tibet and Nepal. The Buddhist Sherpas call the mountain Jomo Tseringma. The Nepal Standard Time (GMT+05:45) is based on the meridian of this mountain peak. The mountain has two summits, the northern (higher) summit being called Shankar (a manifestation of Shiva) and the southern summit being called Gauri (a manifestation of Durga). It rises dramatically above the Bhote Kosi only 5 km away, and is protected on all sides by steep faces and long, corniced ridges.
Melungtse(r) and Gaurishankar(l); glacier
22. Melungtse (Tibetan Jobo Garu; Chinese Qiáogérú F#ng) is the highest mountain of the Rolwaling Himal in the Himalayas at 7181 m and 40 km west of Everest.
Main summit in background, Melungtse II left peak on the ridge.
The peak has a long summit ridge capped by the east (main) summit and the west summit, known as Melungtse II 7,023m. The mountain's steep faces make it more difficult than its elevation would suggest. Melungtse lies just north of the Nepal–Tibet border, on a western spur ridge coming out of the main north-south trending ridge of the Rolwaling Himal, in Tingri County, Shigatse Prefecture of Tibet. To the southwest, across the Menlung Chu, lies Gauri Sankar, which, though a bit lower (7134 m), is more visible from Nepal and better known.
Western Everest range; from left Lunag Ri massif (multiple points mid to far left), Kangtega (bulbous point mid pic), Cho Oyu, Ngozumpa Kang II, Gyachung Kang
We landed mid morning back in Kathmandu, found our cases (no carousel, just abandoned) and were collected by a new guide, Keshav (or KK as he preferred). On our way back to the Hotel Vaishali again we stopped at a photo booth for a new photo for the Tibet visa because the Chinese Embassy had decided that all photos now needed to be in a different format, rather than passport size (and apparently needed to see ears in the photos!?). Back finally at the hotel we met some new companions Amy and Michael. KK asked if we’d like a walk through Old Kathmandu to Durbar Square to witness the Indra Kumari Jatra festivals. Naturally I jumped at the chance, so the 6 of us set off.

Posted by PetersF 07:27 Archived in Nepal Tagged himalayas nepal bhutan kathmandu Comments (0)

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