In 2018, a journey with my close friend and classmate from PGI Chandigarh, Dr. Raman Abrol, marked the Silver Jubilee of our friendship. It was a journey not just of miles but of memories, as we travelled to Bhutan, a land steeped in serenity and spirituality. This trip was unique as it blended adventure with altruism. We had the privilege of contributing to a social cause at the Jigme Wangchuk National Hospital by operating on needy patients, and we hiked the majestic Tiger’s Nest, a place where spirituality meets the clouds. During that visit, I vowed to return with my family, to share the beauty and peace I had discovered.

Fast forward to 2024, an opportunity presented itself through my doctor friends in Chitradurga, to revisit Bhutan, this time with my family. This trip was not just a vacation but a pilgrimage, a chance to reconnect with the tranquillity of Bhutan and to introduce my loved ones to its serene landscapes and spiritual heritage.

As we landed in Paro and made our way to Thimphu, the capital city, memories from my previous visit flooded back. Thimphu, with its unique blend of tradition and modernity, felt like a haven. The main attraction this time was the magnificent Buddha Dordenma statue, a colossal figure overlooking the city from the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. Standing at 54 meters, the statue is not just a marvel of art and architecture but a beacon of peace and prosperity.

Our first visit was, naturally, to this awe-inspiring statue. The sight of Buddha Dordenma, resplendent in gold, surrounded by the lush greenery of the park, was a sight to behold. My family, like me, was mesmerized by its grandeur and the serene aura it exuded. We spent time in silent contemplation, absorbing the peace that seemed to emanate from the statue.

The Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu, Bhutan, is a significant landmark symbolizing peace and prosperity. Completed in 2015, this bronze statue, gilded in gold and standing at 54 meters tall, is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. It was constructed to fulfill ancient prophecies, commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and promote global peace and happiness.

Inside the Buddha Dordenma are 125,000 smaller Buddha statues, also made of bronze and gilded in gold, reflecting Bhutanese craftsmanship and devotion. The statue sits on a large throne housing a meditation hall and several chapels, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens that offer panoramic views of the Thimphu valley.

The construction began in 2006, funded by donations from devotees worldwide, with significant contributions from Chinese philanthropist Peter Chan. Artisans from Bhutan and India collaborated on the project, completing the main statue in 2010 and the surrounding complex and interior finishing in 2015.

The statue holds religious and cultural significance as a representation of Shakyamuni Buddha, symbolizing enlightenment, peace, and prosperity. It fulfills prophecies by Guru Padma Sambhava and yogi Sonam Zangpo, who envisioned the construction of a large Buddha statue to bring blessings and peace. The statue also commemorates the contributions of the fourth King of Bhutan, who introduced the philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

The Buddha Dordenma has become a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world and significantly contributing to Bhutan’s tourism industry and local economy. It serves as a focal point for Buddhist practice and meditation and a site for important religious ceremonies and festivals, fostering spiritual growth and community.

Located in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, which spans over 943 acres, the statue is surrounded by lush greenery and walking trails. Easily accessible from Thimphu, the well-maintained road to the site allows both locals and tourists to visit comfortably.

Our visit held a special purpose. Along with my friends, we decided to contribute to the construction of the Buddha Dordenma statue by collectively donating a miniature Buddha statue, that cost us 300$. This miniature would be housed in the pedestal temple forever, symbolizing our collective hopes and prayers for peace and compassion. The act of contribution felt deeply fulfilling, especially as we stood there, knowing that a part of us would remain in this sacred place.

The timing of our visit was serendipitous. We were in Bhutan few days before Buddha Purnima, that is celebrated on May 23, 2024. Buddha Purnima, marking the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha, held great significance for us. Our contribution felt like a small but meaningful way to honour Buddha’s teachings and his message of peace and compassion.

While the Buddha Dordenma statue was a highlight, Bhutan’s spiritual heritage is deeply influenced by another revered figure, Guru Padma Sambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. Guru Padma Sambhava is celebrated for bringing Buddhism to Bhutan and for subduing the malevolent spirits, turning them into protectors of the land.

Traveling with my family added a new dimension to the experience. Sharing the beauty and spirituality of Bhutan with my loved ones was deeply fulfilling. Watching my children marvel at the Buddha Dordenma, seeing my spouse find peace in the tranquil surroundings, and revisiting familiar places with fresh eyes—all these moments added layers of joy to the journey.

As we prepared to leave Bhutan, I reflected on the journey. Bhutan is more than a destination; it is an experience, a feeling of being connected to something greater. The country’s commitment to Gross National Happiness, its preservation of cultural heritage, and its reverence for spiritual leaders like Buddha and Guru Padma Sambhava create a unique and enriching atmosphere.

Prof. Dr. Prahlada N. B
27 May 2024

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