Making a kora
First thing in the morning of our first day in Bhutan, was paying a visit to a local temple in town. The space was crowded with people. Young and old, couples and singles, groups, mothers with babies on their back, everyone walked around the chorten (or stupa, which is a mound-shaped building). We call it circumambulation, or making a kora.
It is said that it is most beneficial to circumambulate a stupa, to walk in a clockwise direction, at least three times, while reciting a mantra or making heartfelt prayers for the benefit of loved ones, the state of the world, or for all sentient beings. Or you can simply sit in front of a stupa and generate good thoughts, compassion and loving kindness for all beings. Just to see a stupa, to walk around it or to feel the wind blowing by it is a blessing.
So, we just joined the crowd and walked around the monument three times. The weather was sunny. This was our first encounter with Bhutanese culture. I noticed the beautiful garments people were wearing, the bright primary colours of the prayer flags and decorations. I felt already deeply impressed.
Next we were taken to the Buddha Dordenma Statue, or better known as Buddha Point. The Buddha is located atop a hill and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D. and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
The 51.5 meter high statue is three storied with several chapels. It is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The throne that the Buddha sitsupon is a large meditation hall. The gigantic statue is completed on September 25th 2015 celebrating the 60th anniversary of the fourth king of Bhutan. The statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha itself, is made of bronze and gilded in gold. One can offer prayers to Buddha, walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
The statue is known to catch sunlight even when the surrounding areas lie in shadow. The place is expected to become a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate, and retreat. It is estimated that it will take another two years for the project to be fully completed.
From our bedroom window we could see the statue in the distance, as if Buddha himself is watching over his disciples.