Sacred Sites of Bhutan

by Kim Indresano, Feb 12, 2004 | Destinations: Bhutan / Thimphu

We have never seen anything like the enormous fortress monasteries, called Dzongs. Their size is truly impressive and they reign as the center of cultural and religious life, and once served as protection from outside invaders. Every Dzong we visit has lived through a history of rebuilding, often numerous times due to fire, earthquake or flood.

Religion in Bhutan is officially the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism. As with other forms of Buddhism, there are laws of Karma, and the people we meet often speak about "gaining merit" from their good actions, be it praying at the temple, sending a son to study at the monastery, or erecting prayer flags. Kesang, our devout guide, regales us with so many stories and legends of tricksters, protectors, and myriad deities with intriguing multi-syllabic names. Admittedly, our heads are swimming with all the information but we are amazed at how everyone speaks of these stories and names until it becomes obvious that religion is completely imbedded in daily life. Indeed, we decide it would really take some serious study to fully understand the complexities and nuances of Buddhism in Bhutan.