Bhutan # 13 Tango University, Thimphu


A stop on the way to the Tango monastery was made at this mural painted on a large sheer rock face.  Near the mural was a small building with a water driven prayer wheel.  To one side was an open structure created by prayer flags. I’m not sure what it was all about but it was very photogenic.


P1000710  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000710 © DY of jtdytravels

The colourful mural of Buddha.


P1000709  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000709 © DY of jtdytravels

Row upon row of white prayer flags tumbled from the apex of the structure.  Near the bottom were some rows of coloured square ‘lung ta’ prayer flags


P1000714  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000714 © DY of jtdytravels

The whole structure was most impressive.


P1000726  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000726 © DY of jtdytravels

Tango Monastery is about 14 kilometres north of Thimpu.  Its a steepish hike up to the this site which was founded in the 13th Century as a place of meditation in caves in the mountain side.  The monastery was built over the caves in 1688.


P1000729   ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000729 © DY of jtdytravels

Campanula sp. with very bristly stems and calyx.

As usual on these walks, I found flowers of interest to photograph.


P1000735  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000735 © DY of jtdytravels

Impatiens sp.  Yellow balsam


P1000759  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000759 © DY of jtdytravels

In Bhutanese, the name Tango means horse’s head. The rock face on the mountain here is identified as the ‘Horse head’ or ‘Hayagriva’, the name of the deity worshiped here.

Tango Monastery is renowned in Bhutan as a University of Buddhist teaching.  Below the monastery, a new university is being built that will take overseas students who want to learn more about Buddhism.

Tango is also an important summer retreat for monks. This retreat, known as The Yarney, is held here in August/September.  ‘Yar’ means “Summer” and ‘Ney’ means “to stay” and Yarney is a time when monks come to the monastery and stay within its precincts for the entire period while they observe strict monastic discipline, say special chants and prayers and avoid any type of entertainment.  During this time the monks wear yellow robes, going back to the usual red robes when they return home after the Yarney is over.


P1000738  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000738 © DY of jtdytravels

On the day we visited Tango, many bright, new prayer flags were in evidence. We learned that an important graduation ceremony had taken place just before our arrival.  Monks graduate after 3 years, 3 months and 3 days meditation.  Many family members and friends attended the graduation and were still around when we were there.


P1000749  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000749 © DY of jtdytravels

Butter lamps are an important part of Bhutanese Buddhanism.  Traditionally these lamps burn clarified yak butter but more often these days ghee or vegetable oil is used.  The small lamps seen here burn for about one day.  The lamps are managed by the monks of the monastery as extreme care must be taken to avoid fire.  Many a monastery has been burnt to the ground by a misplaced or knocked over lamp.  The famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery was all but burnt to the ground in 1998 by a reported butter lamp being knoched over.  To help avoid total destruction of a monastery, separate outside buildings are now common.  I was privileged to be allowed into this pavilion at Tango Monastery to light a lamp.  It was in a stone forecourt with a stone flagged floor, so obviously much care had been taken with this lamp area.


P1000747  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000747 © DY of jtdytravels

This large butter lamp holds 75kg (165lb) of ghee.  It will burn for one month.


P1000752  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000752 © DY of jtdytravels

Black face langur at Tango monastery.


P1000762  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000762 © DY of jtdytravels

A grand view of the Himalaya mountains from Tango monastery.


P1000764  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000764 © DY of jtdytravels

As we left, the last of the day’s sun clipped the Himalayas. A majestic sight!


Sonam Dorji

Sonam Dorji

On the walk back down to the car park I got talking with a local who asked me if this was my first visit to Bhutan.  I said that I’d had the privilege of visiting some ten years before.  This gentleman immediately said that I would visit his country a third time.  I do hope so!  He asked me what differences I noticed between the two visits and what I liked most about his country.  On parting as we reached the carpark, I asked him what his name was.  It turns out that he’s one of the 20 elected members of the National Council of Bhutan.  I found this photo of The Hon. Sonam Dorji on the Web at <nationalcouncil.bk>  He’s wearing the blue kabney worn by Ministers of the National Council when visiting a monastery.  Meeting him was a real bonus for me for the day.

More anon


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