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Day 115: Paro

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe highlight of the last day of tsechu, and, indeed, the highlight of the festival itself, is the unfurling of the greatest treasure of the Paro dzong. It's a thangka measuring almost 100 feet (30 m) by 150 feet (45 m), and is known as a thongdrol. The survival of this huge tapestry when the dzong burnt down in 1915 only added to its reputation and merely to look on it conveys the very highest merit. Thongdrol means 'liberation by sight'.

To avoid such a precious object being damaged by the direct sunlight, it is unrolled at dawn, so our last full day in the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon begins at 3 am.

When our bus pulls out onto the main Thimpu to Paro road, the valley seems to be already awake, if indeed it ever slept. Lights are on in the houses, buses and taxis are picking up people along the roadside. To add to the sense of great events, a full moon stares down from a cloudless sky.

Pilgrims are pouring over the covered bridge, fingers telling prayer beads and lips moving as they join a candle-lit procession winding its way up the hill. It's a quiet crowd. Buddhism is celebrated in song and chanting, but prayers are never shouted or hymns bellowed, and this morning the great throng, which must number several thousand, is almost silent.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 115: Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 260

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