Dragon Tales,Paro-A Dzong ,monks and movies.

Dzongs [pronounced as zong] are fine examples of the traditional Bhutanese architecture. Each district has a dzong which serves as administrative and monastic centres.  They also have temples and living quarters for the monks. Most of them were built during the 17th century. I was surprised to know that they are built without nails or iron bars and without any blueprints. Then how were they made? A high ranking lama will be calling the shots and he would be guided by spiritual inspiration.

Rinpung Dzong is a  majestic golden domed red and white building dominating the Paro skyline .  Rinpung means   a heap of jewels.This impressive  fortress/monastery    had  also seen massive   earthquake and fire and what we see now is the rebuilt structure. Most of the treasures were lost in the  mishaps except  a precious tapestry Thongdrel.This is unfurled  once a year  during the Paro Festival and it is believed that seeing it can cleanse  you of all  your sins.Festival season is the best time to visit Bhutan and  the next festival will be from April 7-11.

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Rinpung Dzong

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Bhutanese people have to be in  their national dress to get inside  and they also have to wear a  silk scarf known as Kabney [for men]  and Rachu[for women].I must say they look very elegant in this attire.There is no such dress code for the visitors. We just have to be dressed appropriately-long sleeves, no shorts, no caps.

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Men in gho and kabney and lady in kira and rachu

I was in no hurry to get inside and spent time admiring the vibrant colours and the intricate woodworks.

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After going through the imposing  main door you will see  the    huge courtyards, winding corridors,central tower ,temples and living quarters for the monks.The entire structure is   breathtaking.For me Rinpung Dzong was the jewel in the crown of Paro.

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COURTYARD

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CENTRAL TOWER

 

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MONASTIC QUARTERS

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We have to climb a lot of stairs and some of them can be quite challenging.The ascent is fairly easy but the descent needs  lot of caution.Photography is not permitted inside the temple complex.

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A VERTICAL NIGHTMARE-What goes up must come down !

Saw these student monks playing in the courtyard. They seemed  to be having  a good time and   I wondered  how many of them will go on to becoming lamas. Do they miss home? Is their curriculum tough?What if they can’t cope? What if they want to leave? I was very keen to talk to them.They are not shy and are quite used to  visitors.But this was their  recess and I did not want to disturb them.

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YOU NEED A HAIR CUT,BUDDY

Seeing these young  lively monks     I was reminded of  a delightful  Tibetan movie Phorpa [The Cup]. It is  about a  mischievous kid monk who is obsessed with football  and is set against   the 1998 Football  World Cup. It was made by a Lama and I think this could  be his own experience. It takes you to  the  unknown world of young monks and they are shown as they are- free spirited and natural. Another one I remember is  ‘Spring,Summer,Fall,Winter and Spring’-a Korean movie on the life of a monk with each season signifying a  stage in his life.

Paro Dzong and movies? Yes, few scenes from  ‘Little Buddha’ were shot here.

Dragon Tales-Paro and a fort in ruins

Paro is a major district in Bhutan and has historical and religious significance. It is also a picturesque fertile valley.  There are over  155  monasteries and temples in this place. I started off with a visit to the Drukgyel Dzong   which means the Fortress of the Victorious Drukpa. This is considered as one of the most famous archeological sites in Bhutan.

Dzongs are unique Bhutanese fortresses which also serve as administrative and monastic centres. Each district has a dzong, and they are built at strategic locations mostly on the hilltops. Zhabdrung Ngwang Namgyal-the unifier of Bhutan is credited with building most of the major dzongs, and he also established the dual system of governance. So each dzong has a monastic center with temples, schools,  living quarters,  and administrative offices for the government officials.

Drukgyal dzong was made in the 16th century to commemorate the victory over the invading Tibetan and Mongolian army. It also served as a major trade route as it was at a strategic site near the border with Tibet. It was also supposed to have the best armory in the country. A major fire destroyed most of the fort in 1951, and we see only the ruins.  It is still impressive and worth a visit.

Singey, his wife Ugyen, and their kids Angel and Angela kept me company. A huge prayer wheel is at the foot of the hill and from there it is a steep climb to the top.

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It took 10 minutes to reach the top. It was starting to get dark and there was a chill in the air, adding to the suspense ahead.

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View from the top

Finally reached the entrance and I felt as if I have stepped into a bygone era. The whole place looked abandoned and a  little spooky. One can see the ravages of fire all around. Isn’t it ironic that this fort was never conquered by the enemy but was destroyed by man- made fire?

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The Entrance

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Still Standing!

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Checkposts

 

 

 

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We went inside and could see only the burnt walls and woodwork.

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Singey informed that this year the Prime Minister had announced a  major renovation programme.

This fort is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan tentative list for UNESCO heritage sites.

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