QUEST HIMALAYA JOURNAL
By Aswini Tamang
Engraved prayer stones stare at you as if to utter something. There is one of immense form and aura, above which stand sanctified stupas (chortens) contiguous to the main road as if to offer some hallowed welcome. It almost seems to speak the same ancient incantation, ‘Om Mane Padme Hum,’ (Oh! Hail the jewel in the lotus) writ upon it with minute precision and skill.
The monastery stands a good way up a heart shaped hill some thirty minutes of trudge along a stony path bifurcating from the main road. A jeep ride will help one tackle half the uphill distance but a good climb on foot is still inevitable. All along the way similar engraved stone tablets, some dating back to ancient times lurk around. At a certain point close to the monastery stands an old shaft of stone, a sentinel and reminder that one is approaching hallowed grounds; no smoking, no drinking and no killing is permitted. Even the entry of menstruating women is forbidden from this point. A little further up is a concrete frame with a row of prayer wheels having cupped vanes attached to keep them in motion by wind power regardless of any devotees attending to the obligatory ritual.
The monastery owes its origin to Lama Ngadak Sempa Chenpo in 1641 AD. However the original structure was wrecked by an earthquake and was reconstructed again by the third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. It has around three hundred monks attached to its lamasery. The huge wooden pillars exquisitely carved and painted form one of the most appealing feature. The runner beams, arches and supporting pillars appear to be scooped out of stolid trunks. The floor upstairs is completely wooden too.
Outside is a huge garden of prayer flags and a large number of consecrated chortens in a spacious enclosure. One of the holiest among them is the ‘Thong-wa-Rang-Dol’ (meaning saviour by mere sight) that houses the remains of Manjushri. Belief holds that a mere glimpse of it cleanses away a person of all his sins. There is another consecrated to the twelfth Chogyal, Palden Thondup Namgyal. The one dedicated to HH Jamya Khentse Rinpoche is painted in gold.
Amidst the chortens is an ancient cypress tree with four gnarled branches below which lie a huge stone believed to conceal a pond that was hidden by Guru Rinpoche A large number of stone tablets engraved with mantras surround the enclosure and are of particular appeal. Another enigma in stone is the replica of a huge decapitated snake said to have been slain by Guru Rinpoche. This vicious reptile had been sent by a witch to disturb his meditation. Such stony wonders baffle one with the legends clinging onto them. There are others too, like the one imbibing the subtle shape of a conch which is believed to have belonged to the Guru.
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