Friday, January 30, 2015

Jigme Singye Wangckuck- the Embodiment of Rigsum Gonpo

One of World's greatest orators, His Majesty the King of Bhutan during his address to the Nation on the 107th National day offered what is by far the most poetic and comprehensive tribute to his father, the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It was only in the greatness of his speech that we find a single metaphor that could fathom the divinity of his father.
His Majesty, 107th National Day (Source: Facebook Page)

Following is the metaphorical paragraph from His Majesty's address:

"
His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo brought the nation out of darkness to light. For the remarkable transformation His Majesty brought to the nation, the people consider His Majesty to be the embodiment of Rigsum Gonpo. When the nation’s security was threatened, his form was like Vajrapani (Chana Dorji) defending bravely the country without fear for his life. His Majesty took the cause of wellbeing and happiness of his beloved people like a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokitesharva (Chenrizig). The clarity of His Majesty’s visionary policies that still shine and guide us in our path of good development was similar to that emanating from Manjushri (Jambayang). For these reasons, it is an opportune day for all Bhutanese to collectively express the debt of infinite gratitude to His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo and to join together in heartfelt prayer for His Majesty’s long life and good health."

The Rigsum Gonpo that His Majesty mentioned are geographically best represented in three identical mountains standing magnificently in Haa Valley. They are called the Meri Puensum, the three mountain brothers, which are consider very sacred and worshipped by people of Haa.
The overwhelming geography of the three mountains is very intriguing. It's only by visiting the place that you can truly fathom and appreciate the uniqueness of the extraordinary landscape. I therefore welcome Bhutan to Haa this year!

Rigsum Gonpo, Meri Puensum- seen from Tshaphel
It can be best fitted into a single frame of photo if perceived from Tshaphel, while the spellbinding view can be enjoyed from anywhere in Haa, and from along Chelela road.

Rigsum Gonpo Thanka by Nick Dudka

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Knights' Corner- A WAB Book Café, Bajothang

Following is a paragraph from an article I wrote in 2014, There are 100 Bars and No Bookstore in Bajothang
"I wish to celebrate Reading Year by putting together all my gut into opening the first bookstore in Bajothang. If there are 100 ways to get drunk, let me give them one way to remain sober. It will be a huge sacrifice and I don't know how I will do it. As I type this article my friend Dawa Knight and I have already visualized a vague but brave plan to get it started-something like Book Cafe. I will need long tax holiday, book donations from individuals and established businesses, and Dawa's living room,because he has decided to remain single for some more years, to being with."
If I were in Bajothang I would have lived this sober dream much bigger but I couldn't just let the sweetest dream die with my transfer. So I handed over all the books I had to my friend and partner in this Book Cafè dream, Dawa Knight.
That one Shelf we have



Last week, when I visited him our Book Cafè was ready, but in the most humblest way. It's just one shelf of books standing in the middle of one of Dawa's rooms. It's no where close to the type of Book Café we had in mind but it was the best we could do being a working person and now displaced across Dochula.

Dawa Knight has not only sacrificed a huge private space for this initiative but also put his entire collection of books on the public shelf. The only condition he had was to give a personal touch on the name of the place. It's part of a larger initiative Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) is taking in creating Book Café in each Dzongkhag, and since he owns and runs that place he wants to call it Knights' Corner- A WAB Book Café. It's located on the first floor of Hotel New Town.

The Space that is big enough...
The books in Knights' Corner were donated by Au Gyembo Sithey and family, Au Ugyen Tenzin and Chador Wangmo on top of our own collections. The five cartoons of books Au Gyembo Sithey contributed were gifted to me personally, but since Au wanted the books to be shared and read, I thought it can be best done by putting on Café Shelf. Your kindness is inspiring and infectious.

A Similar initiative is planned in Thimphu. The Founder of WAB, Nawang Phuntsho himself wants to dare a bookstore in Babesa, Thimphu. Kindly support him by donating books, furnitures, and kind words. If successful the place can be used a WAB headquarters.

My own plans to open one in Paro is still incubating. For now I would like to seek help and offer help for Nawang's Book Café in Babesa. Lets do something in 2015, the National Reading Year, that we will remember forever.

To Help or Donate Books Call
Nawang, Thimphu @ 17641582
Dawa Knight, Bajothang, @17163878
PaSsu, Paro @17605030
Ugyen Gyeltshen, Trongsa @17693100

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Letter to Kelzang Chhoden

Dear Kelzang Chhoden,

Along with thousands of people across the world I read those heartbreaking letters your dear husband Tenzin Dorji wrote to you ever since you left him. It was so painful to read yet so enthralling to avoid. In the midst of reading my vision would blur and before I realise tears would roll down my cheeks.
In those letters we knew you, we saw the radiance of your young heart; in those letters we celebrated your selfless love; in those letters we felt your ambition and drive for change, your perseverance was far ahead of your age; In those letters we pained in your sickness and those letters shattered us in your death.

But you left behind a dream, and I am writing to tell you that your husband lived that dream bigger than you ever thought. You have left him a purpose, a deeper meaning to seek in your death beyond the endless tears and sleepless nights. He hasn't left a single stone unturned in building your dream on his broken heart. I must tell you that your memories have touched countless lives, which pains me to wonder what you would have done if you lived on.
It's the hardest to digest knowing your death was avoidable and I am proud to tell you that your husband fought a hard battle against all the people who were involved. He knows that you are gone forever but he didn't want the same to happen to anybody. I hope this time the message went deep and high.
Tenzin Directing a Child at the Camp!
Your husband engineered your dream into Camp RUF(Rural Urban Friendship) and it has inspired the largest assembly of charitable Bhutanese, they came forward to offer help in all humanly possible ways. They came together to support your husband in his sincerest pursuit of your dream. They seek love, compassion, kindness, and peace in helping him because his love for you, even in your permanent absence, was a heartwarming surprise.
We followed your dream to Dagana, Lungtengang Pry School, the school where you taught. It reminded me of my one year in Sombaykha, Haa. I saw the room you lived in, the ceiling was almost falling down and there is hardly any natural light coming in. The toilet was over hundred meters aways, without water. Tenzin told me how hard it was to walk you over that painful distance at night when you were sick. I felt so guilty knowing that in your sickness you lived in such difficult place while we lived easy urban lives.
The camp, likewise, was a big eye opener for the 54 urban students and volunteers. I had joined over 150 campers as a photographer along with my South India friend. While I grew up in village and had been in equally difficult place yet the camp had so much to offer. It made us realise how many things we have taken for granted, it made us realise how ungrateful we have been. I could see the reflection of how the urban children would feel in my Indian friend. He was a lucky child and he only realised it in Dagana. He was totally underprepared for the place and after four days he literally gave up and I had to leave the camp with him. He still tells me that he is happier than ever after Camp RUF, he says he now has no complains about his life at all. I hope the camp had same impact on all the children too.
Your mother and sister graced the camp and I know how painful it must have been for them to be there but you should have seen the pride in there eyes as they look at your husband. When your mother left she left a message for him, "Tenzin, you are no more my son inlaw, you are my son."

Those four days at Camp RUF with my camera gave me the opportunity to capture the joy of giving, the joy of helping, joy of sharing, the joy of friendship... I will never forget that expression on Ap Phuntsho's face on the day the campers help him rebuilt his home. I wish I had stayed one more day to experience the moment when children visited their host families and gifted them clothes. But I know by leaving the camp early I have saved myself from the terrible pain of departure. Those three evenings where I presented the photo slideshows made me feeling the subtle attachment to those innocent faces and selfless friends I had captured.
At times among the busy crowd of happy campers I saw your husband lost in his thoughts, I know he is wishing if you were there. Sometimes it seems like he gave way too much joy that he had nothing life for himself but he told me that those silent moments were spent in celebrating your memories and thanking you for giving him so many sincere friends and making him live a purposeful life.
Lone Tenzin watching the campers 

It been a while and I am looking back at the pictures from the camp and in those thousand pictures I see how a man can change the world. Your husband made it. I hope the successive camps will be as successful and inspiring.

With Love
Aue PaSsu

P:S: I forgot to tell you that Tenzin has finally decided to move on. He found a Kesang in whom he saw a little bit of you. I met her on my way back. I hope they find in each other the divine love you left behind.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Buffalo Horn in Daga Dzong

In my last post I wrote about the mythical treasure of Daga Dzong but I have not discussed about where it came from. I could only write about having seen it for real. It was a 7.2 feet long buffalo horn, which is by far the largest in the world (at least as far as I know).
Illustration of the Horn in comparison to my height

THE LEGEND

The Legend has it that one day in 17th century, people living in Daga Dzong heard an unusual bellow of a buffalo from the deep jungle across the valley. The Lam (ID not known) sent his subjects to check on the animal but upon reaching the site all they found was a pair of gigantic horns.

They pair of horns were kept in Daga Dzong for centuries and over the years, it was said that the horns were carelessly thrown all over the place until one day one horn flew away. It was then that the single horn left behind was received back in the Goenkhang of the Daga Dzong and treated as one very important treasure.

The other horn which flew away is believed to be in Talo Monastery in Punakha (Need to confirm). It's pity that I didn't know about it when I was close to Talo. I visited Talo twice and if it was true it can't be missed, literally.

ASSUMPTION

After having seen the horn itself there is nothing so unbelievable about anything but because horns don't have wings I am a bit suspicious about the flying horn myth. I rather prefer to believe that the horn was brought to Punakha as a gift, because Daga Penlop was known in history has someone who brought the best gifts to Punakha Dzong during those day.
The Three Parallel Staircase, Punakha Dzong
It's said that the three parallel staircase in Punakha Dzong were for Trongsa Penlop, Paro Penlop and Daga Penlop, where Daga Penlop was given the privilege to climb the central stair because of the kind of gifts he presented. Perhaps he must have brought it along with so many ivories he presented to Zhabdrung those days.

But how it reached Talo could be another story or may be it really flew, or perhaps it's not even in Talo. (There is more to learn about this fascinating legend)

SCIENCE OF THE HORN

After seeing the horn, I have looked all over the internet to see if there is any 7 feet long buffalo horn in the world but I found none. In fact, no species of buffalo has horns that looked close to the one in Daga Dzong. Of course none matched its size too. So is it really buffalo horn?


Bongo with Large Horns
As I pursue my fascination for largest horns I stumbled upon Bongo, the largest and heaviest antelope found in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. This animal has similar horns that grow very long. But again how could a pair of horns from Africa land up in Dagana? and More over the world record holding Bongo horn is just 3 feet long, no where close to the 7 feet long mythical horn in Daga Dzong.

Therefore the mystery remains and it's best left that way. 

2015 is observed as Visit Bhutan Year and it's time we Bhutanese visit our own country and enjoy its unmatched cultural heritage and endless mysteries. I am giving you 7 feet long reason to visit Daga Dzong this year. World dreams to visit our country, we are already here!

Disclaimer: There could be factual errors regarding time periods and historical references for which I seek your kind correction. Please leave your comments in the comment box below. 


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