World’s biggest published book is about the smallest country in the mighty Himalayas.
Established in 1967 with the primary objective of collecting and preserving mainly ancient Bhutanese written and printed resources, the National Library of Bhutan located in an imposing structure north of Thimphu city was an important place of interest for me. “Library? Why would someone visit a library?” I don’t know, but I have a thing for libraries. It reflects the prosperity of a country and this library in particular was very interesting indeed.
On the ground floor, among other things, is a copy of the world’s largest published book ‘Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom.’ The book weighs 133 pounds (over 60 kilos), and is about five by seven feet in size. Every month, a new page of this illustrated book is turned and opened for viewing. For mere $15,000, this book can be yours. Yes, fifteen thousand dollars. 😉
The library has four floors and is wonderfully decorated and kept.
- The First floor (ground floor) has the world’s largest book and a shrine containing 8 stupas – one each corresponding to a major event in Buddha’s life.
- The Second floor of the library has a collection of traditional books in Chokey, the classical written language of the Himalyan Buddhist world. Topics range from the traditions of Tibet, traditional medicine, astrology, grammar, poetry and the arts.
- The third floor contains more books in Chokey on the traditions of Bhutan and Tibet. The fourth floor has texts in Kagyu language, several editions of the Buddhist Scriptures (Kagyur and Tengyur) which were originally translated into Chokey from Sanskrit. Don’t miss the section exhibiting tools and writing instruments and displays of Bhutanese calligraphy.
It’s a different story that the Bhutanese / Tibetian script is so beautiful, that anything you write looks stunning anyway!
↑ Page of a book and bookshelves
Books and manuscripts are pretty old and carefully preserved. The pages are rectangular (like seen above) with a very high length:width ratio. Sometimes, there are holes on the smaller side of the rectangle through which a string is passed. Sheets are kept over each other and the string running thru them keeps them intact. The whole thing is then kept in a skinny long wooden box and ornately wrapped by decorated silk cloth. It’s a very different type of ‘book’ indeed!
↑ A shrine inside the National Library
It was my first day in Bhutan (if you ignore the day spent at the border making entry permits and riding a bus) and I was still getting used to this ‘happy’ feeling. Why was everyone looking so happy? Why was everyone calm and smiling? Why, when I thanked a stranger for picking up my sweater which I accidentally dropped on the street, do people respond in such a welcoming fashion that makes you feel a part of their family for years?
I was searching answers for these questions for rest of my journey.
And I was only left asking more questions.