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Bhutan on my mind

The magic of its silence and smiles, the flowering trees along the autumn homes painted white with shingled roofs are images so precious that it is like stepping into another time and space, that conversations would be superfluous as it would break the power of the silence.

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As we celebrate the National Day of Bhutan this 17 December, I am reminded of my most magical and mystical visit to this Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayan eastern edge known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and its dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys that stretch as far as the eyes can see, verdant and lush with teeming foliage of fauna and flora. These high Himalayan parks are popular as trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery, also popularly known as Tiger’s Nest, cling to the cliff above the featured Paro Valley which I visited twice during my magical trip giving me a quiet, serene calm feeling that I treasure to this day.

Bhutan is known for its monasteries, fortresses (dzongs) and its dramatic landscapes. / Photograph courtesy of Unsplash/Adli Wahid

I was invited to attend the Literary Annual Festival held in Paro in 2013 where around 200 prominent men and women who write, get together for three days in various forums to discuss their thoughts, present their work, and get acquainted with each other. I launched my twenty-second book there titled: The Word Weavers an Anthology of Poems which was well received.

The first time I set foot in Bhutan was the Autumn of 2013. Right then and there I had an instant connection with the place. Perhaps because I had developed special friendships with wonderful Bhutanese that I felt a certain warmth and comfort knowing that I was welcome.

Bhutan is to me, the world’s last Shangri-La. It is one of those places that is carbon negative as you breath the fresh air, clean and pure. The most charming of sites that enchants are the scenes of people going about their daily chores. As I wandered through the silence of the empty spaces of the Buddhist monastery, I thought to myself that this is a place so ideal in renewing one’s lost soul.

Indeed, the magic of its silence and smiles, the flowering trees along the autumn homes painted white with shingled roofs are images so precious that it is like stepping into another time and space, that conversations would be superfluous as it would break the power of the silence.

Bhutan is ruled by a king and has a Unitary parliamentary
semi-constitutional monarchy. The current king is Jigme Khesar Nangyel Wangchuk, whose mother is a personal friend of mine. 74.8 percent of the population practice Buddhism which is the official religion. The capital of Bhutan is Thimpu with a total population of around 756,100 as of 2021.

Inside in the Buddhist monastery Thrangu Tashi Yangtse, Nepal near Stupa Namobuddha in the Himalaya mountains. / Photograph courtesy of Unsplash/Raimond Klavins

Its Gross National Happiness index is known worldwide and respected as the measure of its population’s strict adherence to their mores and culture. The Bhutanese have a warm sense of humanity, its otherworldly stillness that pervades around creates this spiritual sense of timelessness. This Land of the Thunder Dragon with its prayer flags fluttering in the high, clear light, the weathered red cheeks of its people and its festivals leave deep impressions in my mind’s eye to this day.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is romanticized as a pristine sanctuary set apart from the influences of the modern world. Due to strict governance, the country’s mountains and rivers remain unpolluted. Even the leaves of the trees glitter in the morning sun as if the fairy earthmother makes it her duty to brush her wand across all these greeneries every day. But this is only one facet of the country that impresses me.

ONe thing that impresses people about bhutan is the childlike spirit of playfulness and openness. / Photograph courtesy of Unsplash/Gaurav Bagdi

The one aspect of Bhutan that impresses me most is the spirit of its people. They are mostly childlike in their openness, a playfulness that is indigenous to their nature. Their quality of pure joy and laughter as they show us their landmarks clearly portray this fine characteristic that explains why the Gross National Happiness is readily accepted by everyone.

Bhutan shall always play an important part in my life not only because of the life-long cherished friendships I have developed, but because of the powerful images in my mind that have taught me lessons of kindness, the power of silence and the wisdom and compassion of Buddha’s philosophy which is so similar to that of my own religion.

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