Bhutan – attractions
Thimphu (population 25,000, elevation: 2,320 m) is the new capital established in 1952-3 by the previous king Dorje Wangchuk to replace the former capital of Punakha. Dominated by the city of Tashicho Dzong, a reconstructed copy of an old 400-year-old fortress damaged by an earthquake. The new building has been restored using traditional methods and materials. The Dzong hosts the Central Secretariat, the summer residence of the monarch’s apparatus, the ministry and the venue of the National Assembly. Here is the throne room of the king. Like all monasteries in Bhutan, non-Buddhists are denied access to the monastery half. Inspection of the city and usually begins with a visit to the Dechen Podrang monastery on the site of the first dzong (fort monastery) Thimphu. Now there is a state monastery school and a convent of Ziluk. Then we go up to the TV tower to see the panorama of Thimphu, and on the way back – an endangered animal, known worldwide as takin, is the national animal of Bhutan. This is a rare species of chamois that lives in the area from Bhutan to Kun Lun. The reason why it is takin that was chosen as a national animal is rooted in the history of religion and mythology. When the great saint, Lama Drukpa Kunli, the Divine Madman, visited Bhutan in the 17th century, many people gathered from all over the country to observe his miraculous power. People insisted that the lama perform a miracle. However, the saint, in his usual eccentric manner, demanded to give him a whole cow and a sheep for lunch, ate it all with appetite and left only the bones. After that he took and put the head of the goat to the bones of the cow’s body and with a wave of his finger made the resulting strange animal stand up and go graze on the slope. To the shock of those present, the animal rose and ran into the meadows to graze. It began to be called dong heme tsey (takin). Also, you should definitely visit the craft market, where Bhutanese fabrics and other products of artisans are exhibited and sold. At the School of Painting, you can see how they teach the traditional art of painting the tank (sacred Buddhist scrolls). Dzong Simtok is the oldest fortress of Bhutan, built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. In reality, the dzongs in Bhutan were already in 1153, but this is the first dzong built by Shabdrung, the oldest dzong that survived as an integral structure, and the first dzong that combined a monastery and administrative institutions under its roof. Since 1961, it has been home to the school of Rigney (religious and classical classes). Its students are both monks and secular people. The official name of the dzong is Sangak Zabdon Podrang (“Palace of the deep meaning of the secret mantras”). Here you have a great opportunity to chat with the monks and watch their life in the monastery. The second son in a Bhutanese family is traditionally given to the monastery, where he grows up as a monk. It is believed that this place for the dzong was not chosen by chance, but to monitor the demon that disappeared into the rock nearby. “Simtoka” comes from “simmo” (demoness) and “to” (stone). The convenient location allows you to protect the Thimphu Valley and the valley leading to Docha La and eastern Bhutan. Simtok Utse (the central dzong tower, which houses Lhakang – the temple, literally “the house of God”) has 3 floors, and behind ordinary prayer drums there are more than 300 carved images of saints and philosophers. The central figure in Lhakang is the Shakyamuni Buddha, surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas (beings who have the opportunity to become Buddhas in this life, but who refuse to be reborn in this world and help other beings). The murals inside Lhakang Simtoki are considered the oldest and most beautiful in Bhutan. One of the Lhakangs, Gen Khang, can only be visited by lamas. The expansion and restoration of Simtoka was carried out in the 70s of the XVII century after the attack of the Tibetan army in 1630. Since then, the dzong has expanded and restored several times. During the construction, Simtok was attacked by a coalition of Tibetans and five Bhutanese lamas who opposed the rule of Shabdrung. The attack was repelled, and the coalition leader, Lama Palden, was killed. In 1630, the Tibetans again attacked and captured the fortress. Shabdrung regained control of the fortress after the main building caught fire and the roof collapsed on the conquerors. The descriptions of the original appearance of Simtoki were compiled by two Portuguese Jesuit priests who visited it in 1629 on the road to Tibet. From Thimphu to Paro. In the morning you can go to Paro and visit the ruins of the Drukgel Dzong (14 km from Paro) along the way. Despite the dilapidated condition, the fortress is interesting from a historical and strategic point of view. At this point, the road from Tibet through the Tremo La pass rested on the Paro Valley. Later, this route became the most important trade route between Bhutan and the Tibetan city of Paris. Dzong was built in 1649 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and named after the victory of Bhutan over the Tibetan army in 1644 (Druk is Bhutan, gel is victory).