Wednesday, 15th April 2009 by Ian Brown
For our first post from Bhutan we visit the town of Paro and the Buddhist monastery Rinpung Dzong.
Nestled in a river valley and surrounded by mountains, Paro is home to 20,000 people and numerous significant monasteries, of which Rinpung Dzong is the largest. The present structure was completed in 1646 but a temple and fortress were first built on the elevated rocky outcrop in the fifteenth century. In addition to the monastery, the building houses administrative offices for the town and surrounding district.
Used for some scenes in the movie Little Buddha, the temple is perhaps best known for an annual festival1 which attracts crowds of people from across the valley, in addition to increasing numbers of tourists. It takes place in a small courtyard a short (but steep) walk uphill from the monastery.
The highlight of the festival is the unveiling of a 300 year old sacred banner known as a Thanka. The Thanka is unfurled in the middle of the night on the side of a 4-storey building (on the right of the image above); people line up to briefly touch the scroll before dawn when it is removed to prevent sunlight from harming the ancient fabric.