Bhutan # 16: Rinpung or Paro Dzong


Rinpung Dzong is a fortress-monastery.  The first monastery built on the site was constructed at the beginning of the 10th Century.  The present monastery was built in 1644 using the old foundations, and stones instead of clay.  The five story building was successful in repelling numerous invasions by Tibetans from the north.  When built in 1644 it became the Rinpung Dzong which translates to “heaps of jewels”.  It was destroyed by fire in 1907 along with its many treasures, except one thangka, known as “Thongdel”.  The Dzong was rebuilt after the fire and stands as we see it today.


P1120666  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120666 © DY of jtdytravels

There was some construction work going on near the Dzong.  In the centre foreground can be seen a truck with a couple of tree trunks propped against its side.  These made the loading of heavy pieces of timber relatively easy.  Two people on the truck (one was a lady) looped lengths of rope around each end the logs and pulled for all they were worth to get them from the ground to the tray of the truck.  Who needs a forklift?


P1120718  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120718 © DY of jtdytravels

Whether large or small, roofs associated with temples are always colourfully decorated.


P1120668  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120668 © DY of jtdytravels

A tall flag pole stands near the entrance to Rinpung Dzong.

A darchor, or vertical prayer flag, flutters in the light breeze.


P1120669  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120669 © DY of jtdytravels

These young monks were obviously on a break from their studies.  Much animated conversation was taking place.  The Buddhism in Bhutan originated in Tibet but varies from it significantly in its rituals, liturgy and monastic organisation.  This form of Buddhism is called Vijrayana Buddhism and is the state religion of Bhutan.  Two-thirds to three-quarters of the population are Buddhist.

P1120721  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120721 © DY of jtdytravels

These monks were very interested in their mobile/cell phones.

For a minute or two, their studies are forgotten!


P1120670  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120670 © DY of jtdytravels

All the murals have a story behind them.

This is the way the complexities of Buddhism is taught.


P1120671  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120671 © DY of jtdytravels

Large central courtyards are a feature of Dzongs.  Many have balconies overlooking the courtyards.  Many thousands of people crowd into these areas during festivals and on other important occasions.


P1120676  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120676 © DY of jtdytravels

Exposed wooden features are painted in traditional patterns and colours.  Although the colours used are generally not bright they shine against the grey of the courtyard flagstones and other features.


P1120677  ©  DY  of  jtdtravels

P1120677 © DY of jtdtravels

The ends of the bearers used to build the cantilever balconies

are all individually painted with signs and symbols of Bhutanese Buddhism.


P1120679  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120679 © DY of jtdytravels

Window frames are treated in the same manner.  Again, the charcoal grey used around the windows and for the frames of the windows themselves, goes towards highlighting the other colours.


P1120680  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120680 © DY of jtdytravels

This monk walks stealthily past a decorated doorway.  The walls on either side of the doorway have been used to depict another aspect of Buddhist teachings.


P1120681  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120681 © DY of jtdytravels

Our guides, Leki and Dechen talk to a monk while they wait for us all to satisfy our need to take just-one-more-photo.  There always seemed to be just-one-more-photo to take!  And, in an environment like this, you would find them too!


P1120684  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120684 © DY of jtdytravels

Decorated prayer wheels are recessed into the walls of the Dzong.  There are probably 108 wheels to spin on a single perambulation of the Dzong.  Apart from the words on the outside of the wheel, the hollow centres contain scrolls of parchment with further prayers written on them.  By spinning the prayer wheel, prayers are sent on their way.


P1120685  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120685 © DY of jtdytravels

One of the magnificent courtyards of Paro Dzong.



P1120697  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120697 © DY of jtdytravels

Perhaps I shouldn’t have this photo as photography was not allowed.  This was because there are images of various deities within the hall.  I was very careful not to violate the rule that the images must not be photographed.  The walls are draped with material to protect the ancient murals beneath.  The floor was made from wide pine planks.


P1120704  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120704 © DY of jtdytravels

 A young monk with a job in mind.


P1120705  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120705 © DY of jtdytravels

Contemplation in front of a mural depicting an elephant holding a conch shell.  The conch shell has a number of uses.  It is used to call together religious assemblies, much like a bell in a church steeple.  It is also used during the rituals as a container for holy water and as a musical instrument.  Naturally, conch shells can twist in a clockwise direction (a rarity) or commonly, in an anti-clockwise direction.  The clockwise twist is considered especially sacred and is seen to replicate the celestial movement of the sun, moon and planets.  The twirls of hair on Buddha’s head follow this direction as does the long curl of hair on his forehead, not to mention the conch-like swirl of his navel!


P1120709  ©  DY of  jtdytravels

P1120709 © DY of jtdytravels

Detail of one of the murals depicting a story from one of the Buddhist stories.


P1120714  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120714 © DY of jtdytravels

Detail of a wall mural.


P1120716  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1120716 © DY of jtdytravels

Details of another mural.

Visiting a Bhutanese Dzong is always an interseting experience.

More anon


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