A beautiful view of Mt Masanggang from Dochu La.

Panoramic view of Himalayas.

While driving to Punaka from Thimpu, we briefly stopped at Dochula Pass.  It was a foggy morning that day but after a while the sky cleared up and we got a magnificent view of the Himalayas particularly Mount Masanggang, the highest peak in Bhutan. We were really lucky that day otherwise for most part of the year the weather here remains foggy and chilly.

The Docula pass is at an elevation of 3100 metres and is 30 kms away from Thimpu. It is the starting point of Dochula Nature Trail.

It is here that the eldest Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo WangChuk built 108 Chortens to honour the Bhutanese soldiers who died fighting the Indian rebels in 2003.  The rebels were forced to exit Bhutan,  by the 4th King who had personally lead 700 of his men to this victory.

The Chortens are built in 3 layers, 45 chortens in the 1st layer, followed by 36 chortens and finally 27 chortens in the third layer, around the main Chorten. Each Chorten contains offerings such as grains and bronze utensils plus clay images of Bhuddha.

Each Chorten also contains a “soksing”, made up of a long square wooden pole wrapped in a silk cloth, which provides a connection with heaven from earth.

There is a temple called Druk Wangyal Lhakhang nearby which was built in honour of Druk Gyalpo (head of Bhutan state). In the open grounds, in the front yard of the temple, the Docula Druk Wangyal Festival is held every year.

It is a beautifully built structure and should on one’s must see list.

Why do Bhutanese paint phallus on their homes?

Travellers to Bhutan are often confused to see phallus painted on the outer walls of the houses or wooden phallus hanging or nailed on top of the front door. I was also amused to see this and decided to find out why.

 

I found out that this tradition started in 15th & 16th century by Lama Drukpa Kunley who was also known as a mad saint or divine madman. He originally came from Tibet and was the disciple of Pema Lingpa. He was fond of women and wine and would often demand these favours when travelling from one village to the other. His ways of teaching Buddhism were so unorthodox that it often shocked the monks.

When he came from Tibet he bought a wooden phallus decorated with a silver handle, which is now stored in Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery built near Lobesa village in Punakha, Bhutan. If you are women of childbearing age and visit Chimi Lhakhang, you will be blessed by the Lama by striking the phallus on your head.

It is believed that in Bhutan, phallus were part of the ethnic religion before the country embraced Buddhism. Lama Drukpa advocated the use of the phallus symbol as paintings on the walls and hanging the carved wooden phallus on house tops.

Though in urban areas this trend is now declining but is still prevalent in rural areas. On a drive from Thimpu to Paro, you can see these paintings on most of the houses. You will find them in various colours and some even tied with ribbons like presents.

During the house warming ceremony, in Bhutan, four wooden phallus are erected on the corners of eaves of the house and one inside the house. A basket full of phallus is raised by men to the roof while women pull it down and this continues amidst a lot of drinking, dancing, and signing by all present. The phallus are painted in five different colours signifying five divine interventions.

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Why you should visit Bhutan once before you leave this planet?

Paro International Airport.

 

Bhutan has been on my bucket list for a long time, so when I heard that my friends were planning a trip, I tagged along.

I am so glad that I did because Bhutan is so beautiful, green, disciplined and has low population density, making it an ideal place to visit for a holiday.

It is really a surprise, that though it was recognised by United Nations, as a country only in 1974, it has been able to control its population. It has just over 774,000 people for an area of 38,394 square kms.

Bhutan measures its economic prosperity not in terms of GDP but in terms of overall health of the nation.

Stained happiness.

This is measured by four pillars, sustainable development, environment protection, cultural preservation and good governance which together form the Gross National Happiness (GNH).

It is really committed to protecting the environment and if anybody is found guilty of harming the sacred black necked cranes, which come in hundreds in Haa Valley or Phobjika during winters each year, that he is sentenced to life imprisonment.

As per their constitution, 60 per cent of the country must remain a forest and that is the reason why it is world’s only “Carbon sink” (it absorbs more CO2 than it produces).

Phobjika Valley or Haa Valley.
Phobjika Valley or Haa Valley.

Import and sale of tobacco is banned in the country and there are heavy penalties if you are caught smoking in public.

The capital city, Thimpu is the only second city in the world which does not have a single traffic light. Pyongyang (North Korea) being the other. The traffic is so systematic that when the lone policeman manning a traffic “signal” goes off duty at 5pm each day, the traffic continues the same way as if he was there.

Beautiful Thimpu.
Beautiful Thimpu.
Lone manned “Traffic Signal” in the heart of the city.
Beautiful Thimpu.

The only way to cross the road in the city is through the zebra crossing. People breaking this law are fined Rs 1200- on the spot.

Bhutanese lay a lot of emphasis on their culture and its preservation. TV was allowed in the country only 11 years ago and all Bhutanese nationals must dress in their traditional dress when entering Govt offices and in their work places.

The country is officially Buddhist and largely Hindu but the state does not interfere in dietary habits of its citizens some of whom consume meat, including beef, imported from India.

It is amazing to see that despite poverty Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia and its citizens are proud of their country. Though it is a constitutional monarchy they love their Dragon King, as he is called, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Unlike some countries Bhutan walks the talk when it comes to Women’s Empowerment. We saw Hotels, Shops & Restaurants being manned by young women, also in each hotel we stayed, 95 percent of the employees were women.

Such a beautiful country, it should be on everyone’s “must do” list.

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