Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

Sanskrit gospels and writings of the many religious figures important in Bhutanese life.

They were taught the rituals, dances, prayers, and chants through which their devotion

to Buddhist principles are demonstrated. Even today, some youngsters are placed in these

schools rather than the free public schools and they learn much the same things as their

ancestors. Kelzang lamented the fact that the monastery education did not prepare the

students for life outside the monastery community if they chose to leave on reaching age

We visited so many dzongs and temples that they all began to blend in our

memories because there is certainly a great similarity among them. Some have been

more newly refurbished, some are more ancient and show their great age, some sit in

the valley towns, others follow the twisting topography of a mountain ridge, one even

floats on the point where two mighty rivers join in a tumultuous confluence.

The dzongs date from the 14th century but temples can originate from as long ago as

the 7th century. But since dzong and temple visiting is best “reported” in photography,

I will not try to describe and name each of the wonderful edifices we visited. Suffice it

to say, we admired the architecture and enjoyed the visits immensely and found each one

intriguing, foreign, and in many ways quite mystifying since we are not really very

conversant with Buddhism and its many myths and rituals.

Visits to two of these dzong-based monasteries provided deeply moving and

revelatory experiences for us. At the Thimphu Dzong, we heard chanting and bell-ringing

wafting across the central courtyard as we entered. We made some stops at paintings

and statues so Kelzang could explain them to us but gradually the music became a strong

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