The soothing mountain air and a feeling of calm will greet you as you enter the capital city of Bhutan. Life will seem to have slowed down a pace and will seem really beautiful when you see the smiling faces of the locals. While logically, you can find thousands of reason for such serene atmosphere of Thimphu but if you believe in magic, I would say it pervades from the Buddha Dordenma who overlooks the city. It might seem like an ornate gigantic statue on a mountain but trust me when I say, there is more to it than meets the eye. To know what that is, follow me as I take you to the Buddha point in Thimphu.
About Buddha Dordenma
Way back in the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava had prophesized that a second Buddha would appear and promote peace and harmony around him. The prophecy seemed to have got buried under the sands of time or possibly everyone was waiting to see who this new Buddha was. Either way, with the giant statue of Buddha Dordenma, it is believed that this prophecy has now come true.
However, that is not all. There was a second prophecy made by Yogi Sonam Sangpo. He envisioned that a statue would be built in this area to “bestow blessings, peace, and happiness to the whole world.” With the sanctioning of land and benevolent grants, in 2004, the large statue of Buddha was commissioned to a Chinese company – Aerosun Corporation of China. They began construction on time but finished in 2015. In a way, it was perfect timing for the statue celebrated the 60th-anniversary celebration of the fourth king of Bhutan – Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
The glinting gilded statue of Buddha can be seen from almost anywhere in Thimphu city. In fact, in a way, it greets you when you enter Thimphu – instantly calming you down for a serene experience of Bhutan.
Arriving at the Buddha Point
Technically, they say that early morning is the best time to head to the Buddha Point. However, since we were on a holiday and the fact, that we had arrived just the previous evening after a long journey, we chose to take it a little easy. We zipped up the curvy roads right to the grand entrance of Buddha Dordenma. We encountered quite a few cyclists along the way. That is when we discovered that instead of zipping up the fossil fueled vehicle, we could have used our pedal power to get up this popular cycling route.
We also, discovered that the route was a good hiking trail too – naturally so, given the lovely landscape around. In retrospect, either of these two options would have added zest to this outing but well, given the time constraint, I guess we did the best. A hop, skip and jump to the entrance showcased the back of the Buddha and a sprawling campus around it. I was already excited – to see the expression of this lovely Buddha.
Up, Close and Personal with Buddha Dordenma
The golden statue of Buddha stared down at me in a very understanding way. The calm demeanor, with wise eyes and a gentle smile on his lips – there was no way you could feel anything else but peace. Every angle of this towering Buddha gave me a different perspective to admire. The more I looked at him, the more details I discovered about the statue. Like the bed of Lotus, his weapon –Vajra, the perfect shape of his nails – each detail making me give a kudos to its craftsman.
There are quite a few interesting facts that will entice you to visit the Buddha Dordenma. For one – it is considered to be one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. It measures 51.5 meters in height and is made of bronze. The statue overlooks the Thimphu valley and is located in a national park. The most important of the facts is the one about its secret. Now, if I tell you that, what happens to the rest of my post? 😉 So, hang on for a bit and continue the journey to unveil this.
Carvings galore around Buddha Dordenma
Once you are over the imposing statue of Buddha, you are likely to discover a few more interesting things about the place. For one, right below the Buddha is a chamber. Around the beautiful windows of the chamber, are interesting carvings. They are 3-D in form and protrude out to capture your attention. From pretty peacocks to fearsome mythical creatures like this one, I urge you to discover them all. Remember to walk around the entire pedestal and you will find them.
At the periphery of the pedestal level, you will see these lovely nymph-like Goddesses holding fluttering colored cloth. They are symbols of good luck in Buddhism. I found them later at the Naropa Festival too – at the photang. In case you have missed that post, you can find it here.
Last but not least of my finds was the little temple in front of the Buddha. This has another statue of Buddha along with oil lamps placed around. My guide mentioned this as an active place to offer prayers. Frankly, I saw all these after I had discovered the bigger secret of the Buddha Dordenma. I suppose it is not fair to keep you hanging anymore. So here we go –
Secrets of Buddha Dordenma
This is where you need to enter the chamber beneath the Buddha pedestal. This is actually the meditation hall of the Buddha temple. One step into it and you will be blown with the grandeur of the place. Unfortunately for you, I have no pictures of the same for photography is not allowed in the chamber. However, I will do my best to describe it to you.
Not only are the walls of the chamber covered with interesting art, but it is also what is against those walls that will enthrall you. Numerous Buddhas of varying poses and sizes stare back at you. They say there are 125,000 Buddhas kept within the chamber. All these are donated by various people. They are all made of bronze and looking at all of them is practically impossible in one visit.
At the center of the hall is a huge statue of Guru Rinpoche along with a few other Buddha statues. Plates of food, bowls of water and other offerings are set around it. As the Buddhist custom goes, the basic offering to the Lord is plain water. It does not matter what your status is, the one thing anyone can afford is water and hence, the custom.
Ï bet you wish you can go clickety-click” – said my hubby to me. And all I could do in reply is – Nod with my mouth open and eyes popping out!
Bird’s eye view of Thimphu
Like I mentioned earlier, it was after the tour of the secrets in the meditation chamber, I discovered the rest of the beauty of the Buddha point. Besides the carvings, I enjoyed the bird’s eye view of Thimphu city. It was so different from the other modern cities – with colorful rooms and no tall buildings. The un-hurried pace of life was evident even in the view – something that I think we all need to experience at least once!
A quick hike through the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park
Exiting the Buddha point, we took a quick detour to the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The park was used to celebrate the Royal Wedding in 2011. Its gate was just next to the Buddha point and our guide took us in to experience a bit of nature. Scraggly pine vegetation with Gum trees and fluttering prayer flags took us to a vantage point.
Various picnic tables dotted the spot. It looked like the culmination point for all the prayer flags in the park. Naturally so, for this was at the edge of the cliff where the winds blew the good vibes of the flags to the valley below. We spend some idle time here in peace, taking in that very air and hopefully, lots of good luck. Maybe, it is time that you too, head there for your bit of luck. If nothing else, Buddha Dordenma will calm you do and add some semblance to your life. Trust me, this is definitely something that you need to pin as one of the places to see in Thimphu, along with Thimphu Dzong.
How to get to Buddha Point in Thimphu?
- The closest airport to Thimphu is in Paro. It is around 50 km away and takes an hour by road to get here.
- The other way to get to Bhutan and Thimphu is by road from the India border. Here is a Travel Guide to Bhutan that will give you details on how to go about planning the same.
- Buddha point can be approached by way of a hike or by mountain biking. Your local cab too, can get you there directly.
Where to stay in Thimphu?
- I stayed in a mid-priced hotel in Thimphu. Hotel Shantideva was quite comfortable and well-located in the center of Bhutan. It has comfortable rooms with heater and a basic breakfast facility.
- Depending on your budget, you will be able to find plenty of hotels here. You can check their reviews and book them through any of the known hotel booking websites.
Here is a master Travel Guide to Bhutan. This details out all that you need to plan your trip to the Land of Happiness. From Visas to Permits, hotels, places to visit, dos and donts and more, just click here to know it all.
- There are no entrance fees to visit the Buddha Point. Photography is permitted except within the meditation room.
- You will need to leave your footwear out when you visit the meditation chambers.
- They say early morning and evening is the best time to visit the statue. It is also, very beautifully lit in the night.
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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.