Bhutan Temple Expansion – Safeguarding Spirituality
The high Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan lies sandwiched between the global superpowers of China and India. It is ruled by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has put in place a Gross National Happiness Index development plan which rests on four pillars: cultural preservation; sustainable development; environmental protection; and good governance.
One aspect of this plan is Bhutan’s continued fervour for building new spiritual venues such as lhakhangs (temples) and gompas (monasteries). Visitors can bask in the ancient atmosphere of centuries-old lhakhangs and gompas, as well as enjoying exciting and colourful newly designed sacred buildings.
Six weeks before COVID-19 poleaxed the world, I travelled across Bhutan from east to west and was astonished at the opportunity to visit so many exciting new structures, including dzongs (forts) and palaces. I was frequently taken aback at the scale of development, and the infectious enthusiasm from local developers, craftsmen, and Rinpoche monk leaders.
As these photos show, the creation, building and decorating of these structures – taken when visiting four different places: Choeday Monastery; Pemachol’ng Nunnary; Tangsibee Temple and Thrumshing La Pass Temple – is captivating.
In each case the painstaking detail of workmanship, often with rudimentary tools, beautifully complements traditional designs of Buddhist meditation and enlightenment retreats.
There’s a sense of national enlightenment, as accompanying guides and local hosts proudly reiterate how Bhutan is not only the first country to become carbon neutral, but also carbon negative. In addition, the nation’s ability to protect themselves against the pandemic has been admirable, with only three reported deaths and an efficient national vaccine programme across the country’s 750,000+ population. This unique destination is therefore well prepared for a return to normal activities and well-managed tourism.
When I look back on my pre-pandemic travels through Bhutan, the enthusiasm, vigour, pride, and quality in handcraftsmanship shown in new-build temple and monastery developments stands out as an example of how well placed the Kingdom is going forward.
And in the process, they are safeguarding the spirituality of this remarkable Himalayan territory for today, as well as into the future.
Thrumshing La Pass Temple: