We started and ended our first day in Thimphu (second day in Bhutan) by visiting some of the monasteries around the city (3 of them.) Tibetian Buddhist monasteries have a distinctive look, and the presence of prayer wheels is perhaps the most significant aspect.
A prayer wheel is a cylindrical ‘wheel’ on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather, or even coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit externally on the wheel. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.
The Memorial Chhorten
The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. This Chorten is dedicated to the Third Druk Gyalpo (King), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck after his sudden death while traveling abroad in 1972. A great amount of renovation took place for the 2008 celebrations to mark the Century of the Monarchy in Bhutan. Fortunately that was the time we visited Bhutan.
The chorten looks beautiful early in the morning with its golden tip shining in the morning sun. School children make a quick trip to the temple rushing their way to school, often interrupting the slow and regimented morning prayers of older people who linger around the premise. This place was very busy, even among the pigeons, who didn’t seem to mind people spinning the large prayer wheels around them.
Lots of monasteries and temples dot the streets of Thimphu and the air is filled with silent chants and the lovely clitter clatter of spinning prayer wheels.
The lady in this picture makes 108 circuits around the monastery every day. Being a society focused on religion, doing something like that, I understand, is the primary activity of most old people in Bhutan. If anything, by climbing stairs and walking so much, they get more exercise than I do!