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Himalaya

Day 115: Paro

Paro, Bhutan 
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The climax of tsechu is the unfurling of an enormous thangka that envelops an entire five-storey building. It is brought out once a year and always just before dawn to avoid damage from direct sunlight.
Michael Palin - HimalayaDancers come out now and some particularly intrusive, flash-popping tourists meet their match. As they push forward for their trophy close-ups, a couple of them are sent flying by
a whirling dancer.

The dawn light slowly fills the sky, and as the time draws near for the thongdrol to be put away for another year, the line of pilgrims wanting to touch it surges forward. Not for the first time at tsechu I fear for the children and the frail older people who get caught up in this religious fervour. I count only six police at the front to deal with any emergency. But somehow, it never gets nasty or aggressive. The joy on the faces of those close to the thongdrol speaks of fulfilment not frustration.

The chill of the night softens and the sun begins to climb, revealing the full glory of this immense tapestry and the size of the crowd, banked right up the hill on both sides, that has been drawn here to see it. I turn away and look out over the shining walls and towers of the fortress to the mountains rolling away towards the looming Himalaya. This is a ceremony to match the landscape. A collective act of belief, bringing together the mountains and the faith that people need to survive them.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 115: Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 261

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