Tag Archive: Thimpu



Zilukha is the “biggest nunnery” in Bhutan, yet I would never consider it huge by any standards.  But it may have the best  location.  It is perched on a promontory overlooking the Tashichhoedzong or Thimpu Dzong and its surrounding golf course. From the roadside,  we walked up a wide dirt path to reach this nunnery with no gates, no doorbells, no guards.  Just sleeping dogs.  



The Path to Female Monkhood?



Female Monks?   Yes, many women — some young girls, even toddlers — from poor families enter the nunnery.  The ones I saw at Zilukha Nunnery in the Drubthob Goemba  were likely as old as 70 and as young as 4.  I was honestly surprised to find the young ones, and initially thought they were orphans under the care of the nuns.



Zilukha Nunnery



Our tour guide explained that some of these children were left behind by their poor parents.  A refuge from extreme poverty.  Yet I wasn’t exactly sure it is a refuge.  The nuns we found here can certainly do with some comforts.  Having seen the magnificence of the Dzongs in Paro, Thimpu and Punakha,  the Zilukha Nunnery appears almost like a disheveled garage or storage room in one of these dzongs.  The shrine is very small, and the nuns pray and chant their mantra in a narrow space where a giant prayer wheel occupies easily a tenth of the entire room.  The nearby one-storey building serves as their sleeping quarters and I can imagine these nuns must sleep in cramped quarters there.  



The Living/Sleeping Quarters of the Zilukha Nunnery

Entrance To The Prayer Room



Once we stepped inside the Prayer Room,  we felt almost guilty barging in as the nuns were busy praying and chanting.  The elder of the nuns allowed 2 photos of them doing their spiritual chores — chanting mantras and spinning prayer wheels.  The area is a bit cramped.  Two lines of nuns face each other while a giant prayer wheel is spun by one of the younger, stronger nuns.  The 4 year old happily , yet quietly sat on the lap of the grey-haired nun.   This nun with greying hair, looking so undecided between chanting and chewing her betel nut, while caring for the toddler-nun.  I spotted red-stained teeth,  and some chewed bits threatening to drip on the sides of the older nun’s mouth.  



Just Two Photos Inside the Prayer Room.

Two Lines of Nuns Facing Each Other in This Narrow Corridor.



I wish I was able to take a better shot of the grey-haired nun and the toddler nun.  I dared not appeal for a 3rd shot, guilty as we were to have arrived at a sacred hour.   As young girls enter the nunnery to escape poverty as well as to gain education,   I wonder if some of them feel “forced” to take this option.  Sure, they are here to seek “enlightenment” but I am more inclined to think they are here or were sent here  to escape from the harshness of  a difficult, deprived life.  



This Is The View From Zilukha Nunnery. Not Bad!

As with the monks,  people seek spiritual guidance from these nuns.   As such,  they spend their time gaining spiritual knowledge to prepare them for this religious work.  Some of them may have felt deprived in their early life, but they all look forward and appreciate the newfound social status to be gained from being a nun.  In a country like Bhutan where Buddhism seamlessly blend with everyday life and the national character,  monkhood has its place.  



Please do check my other blogs and photos on Bhutan  here in WordPress. Or try my blog series on Bhutan in TravelBlog. Here is the link :  http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/Trips/17606

It is the first Dzong we have visited in Bhutan.Trashichodzong or Thimpu Dzong literally translates to Fortress of Glorious Religion. Buddhism truly makes its mark on Bhutanese culture. But nowhere else have I witnessed Church and State work so in harmony. No quarrel between the Church and State in this tiny Kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas.

Trashichodzong or Fortress of the Glorious Religion in Thimpu, Bhutan

From the time the country’s capital was moved from Punakha to Thimpu, 3 kings have held office here. The present King was crowned at age 27, making Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck the youngest monarch in the world. His father, the good if not better-looking Jigme Singye is still very much visible, and still young (and hot) at 55. The local folks simply love them and speak adoringly of the royal family.

The Hunk. I mean the 4th King: Daddy Oh of the Present (5th) King

The Fortress houses the State offices including the King’s office and Throne Room, as well as the monastery where the Chief Abbot shares the same rank and place as the King. In Bhutan, this does not seem to be a problem.

Bhutanese Art in The Beams, Ceilings, Walls, Windows, Eaves, Doors, etc.

I remember walking down a path of willow trees and rose gardens which must have had their last full bloom a month or so earlier. A pity this trip was pushed down towards yearend as hotels were fully booked for the King’s wedding last October 13, and the festivals in October-November made it impossible to book a trip earlier. Truth is my other friends gave up on Bhutan, leaving just me and another travel companion. Thank God I refused to give up on this chance to see Shangrila. Yes, no less. Even at minus one degree to 6 degree Celsius!


We passed some guards (few, actually, considering that they are guarding the King and Chief Abbot) as we climbed the stairs to get into the courtyard. What spilled before our eyes was nearly unreal. We “owned” the courtyard exclusively but for a couple of monks and a single photographer, who like us, seemed mesmerized by the beauty of the Dzong. Om Mani Peme Hum. That’s the oldest and most well-known Tibetan Buddhist mantra taught by our guide, Sonam Norbu. You hear the monks chant it, as I often heard Norbu recite it as he paid his respects to their Buddha of Compassion. It took awhile for me to remember the mantra, strange language that it is. Until I managed to link the mantra to “Oh, money, penge (meaning to ask) hmmmm”. My apologies. They sure sound so irreverent and so contrary to Buddhist teachings, but the “joke” made it easy for me to remember. (Forgive this old lady. Peace xoxoxo)

Resident Pigeons Rule the Courtyard!

Elizabeth In Ecstacy!

I forgot to ask Norbu, but all Dzongs here are painted like white monoliths adorned with intricate woodcarvings and handpaintings on beams, pillars, eaves and window frames. The colors — dominated by golden yellow, rusty orange (saffron, according to my friend Elizabeth) and black, tinged with red, blue, black and green — are almost standard. There also seems to be a standard Bhutanese architecture and layout, but for the size and number of dochey (courtyard) and lhakangs (temples). What makes it even more amazing is that these palace-like structures were built without written plans or blueprints. Everything is committed to memory. Say what? Amazing, indeed.

Bhutan: Where Nature and Culture Reign

Inside the temple, my friend Elizabeth was almost ecstatic to find the thousand mini buddhas she has been reading about. Those, and the thangkas (silk painting with embroidery) which left her drooling in its beauty. Have to admit I do not share the same appreciation, not knowing much about Buddhism nor the art of thangka-making.

Thangkas Found In A Store. For Sale. Not Cheap.

As we made our way back to the courtyard, we basked once more in the peace and quiet within the courtyard. The tranquility was not disturbed but was instead enhanced by the now familiar dong dong chimes of the prayer wheels and the fluttering of wings by the resident pigeons. And I thought this only happened in the movies! Truly, today is one AWE-spicious day!

[Do check out my other blogs on Bhutan here in WordPress, as well as my series on TravelBlog : Mystique of Bhutan . Here’s the link……….. http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/liliram/Trips/17606 ]

A Bad Shot of An Illuminated Thimpu Dzong 😦

The Bhutanese Men Wear Gho. The Women Wear Longer Skirts Called Kira.

To contact my tour guide Sonam Norbu, send an email to ubron_11@yahoo. com