Traveling to Thimphu in Bhutan, you are sure to be advised by your hosts or guides to make a trip to the Golden Buddha or “The Buddha Dordena Project”. It is a project Bhutan holds proudly in its heart.
The Dordena project commenced in 2007 and is still on-going. It is expected to be completed in about two to three years hopefully. It could possibly be one of the largest Buddha statues in the world.
A bronze statue of Buddha, gilded externally with gold is erected on the mountain ranges overlooking Thimphu. The statue stands at 169 Feet tall and is based on a flat constructed land on the mountain range.
The main Buddha statue houses 1,00,000 numbers of 8 inch statues of Buddha and 25,000 numbers of 12 inch statues of Buddha inside.
Some other beautiful statues line the circumference of the flat land and the view from here is a sight to remember.
The Buddha statue has a base level area that houses a prayer room for monks. The day we visited, we were told it was a special day and I guess more than 50 monks were present there, reading chants from their manuscripts and meditating. Depending on the occasion, the monks can be in numbers of more than 300 or less than 3 and the chanting ceremony can extend to even 3 days or 3 months.
As you enter the prayer hall, a very typical betel smell (which is typically smelt all over Bhutan especially near monastery’s) envelopes you. Some love this smell…Me? Well, I wasn’t a fan of it. It smells like old clothes taken from a cupboard combined with an almost caramelic sweet smell. Walk inside and there isn’t a dull corner around. Interiors done in hues or red, gold and mahogany make you feel warm and at home. The walls are lined up with smaller Buddha statues. In the center of the hall are larger statues of the deities of Buddha and the founder of Bhutan, Shab-Dung.
Our request for taking pictures is turned down by an elderly lady – most likely one of the care takers of the monastary but we are free to walk around and explore a bit. The monks are engrossed in their chanting of prayers. They do not bother much with the tourists who come and go. In fact, there isnt any hard-core rule that people cannot enter the monastary when the monks are praying. You just need to be quiet and not disturb anyone.
Me and a few other friends quietly go and sit on the floor alongside a few of the monks and offer our prayers and respects to the deities.
Our host gives us details on the offerings placed before the Deities there. There are these intricately carved offerings made from butter – about a foot in height with beautiful colours. These, depending on the occasion are kept and can last for upto 6 months.
Smaller lamps called butter lamps are lit alongside.
An interesting looking jug filled with water spiked with a bit of saffron and camphor is placed on the table there. What makes it interestng is the presence of a peacock feather on top of it. This was a similar sight at a couple of other places too. On prodding about it further, we were told that in earlier legends, the peacock feather was known to absorb poison and hence, it was present on the jug there. Saffron and camphor were known to be water purifiers and hence their addition in the water. All of us were given a few drops of this water as an offering that we were supposed to sip a little and then sprinkle over our heads.
We spent a few more minutes outside the prayer hall, admiring the views and making more memories by taking pictures and then headed off in the direction of Thimphu to spend the rest of the day exploring this Capital city of Bhutan.