January 28, 2011

In search of Faith


Trashigang was showcasing Bhutan’s relic collection (Dragon’s Gift) while there was a drupchhen in Rangjung. It was Tsheringla who proposed that we visit both. Namgyal readily agreed. I was the only one who was skeptic about the plan as it would mean returning at night from Rangjung. And I was not too keen on religious visits.
Still, Namgyal convinced me and Kinley to accompany them. The buildings were already casting long shadows as we started from upper market. It was late in the day. Reaching the primary school, Sangay and Yenten were already waiting for us in their car. We followed them, a replica of what we were in; two red Santros, zooming down the curves. Loud music blared from the second.
At Kanglung lower market, Tsheringla was waiting for us. The market looked dead; most of the people there had retired inside. The few we saw looked like over-stuffed babies, some waddling down the street in their winter wear.
Tsheringla got in the front car and we started our journey. All along the way we met a lot of devotees returning after paying their homage to the relics; old men in faded ghos with dirty slept in kabneys, police personals with shining black boots and neatly ironed blue dress, maroon robed young monks with shaved skulls, a group of pretty faced young girls dressed to kill. Busses, taxis, trucks, scooters, motorbikes, Santros, Altos, A-Stars; all filled with devotees filed by us. We feared that we would be late.
As we reached Trashigang, I felt as if I had reached a medieval town; a narrow road made narrower by cars parked in disorder, tall traditional houses that served as shops with intricate Bhutanese paintings and dark alleys that smelled of dead rats. We took the narrow turn towards the Dzong. The road narrowed still until we reached the narrowest parking area (I have ever seen) outside the Dzong. Sweet smell of incense and maroon-robed monks greeted us. Right below the parking area shelf, the DYT hall was decked with beautifully-colored mentsi dars.
The time was already 30 minutes past the closing time, yet a few stragglers had also reached the exhibition area, hoping for a glimpse of the relics that were supposed to be displayed there. The six of us joined the small crowd of people who were moving unsurely towards the front gate of the DYT hall.
A policeman beckoned us to come towards the side door, as the front was closed. It seemed that we were late, but he allowed us inside when he saw our determined eyes.
The inside was decked like a lhakhang, but not any normal lhakhang. Gods, Goddess, and Deities stared down on me from the beautiful thankas. Gold, silver, and natural dyes were designed on the rich brocade fabrics. A thick voice chanted mantras from hidden speakers somewhere in the walls. Intoxicating smell of incense hazed my eyes.
One wall was made into a chhoesham, while the center of the room was covered with statues and artifacts; yellow gold, brown copper, black or colored. Buddha dominated the scenario with his many disciples and manifestations. Zhabdrung was not left far behind.
Everywhere I turned God seemed to question my faith. They were in every form imaginable; peaceful, wrathful, coy, wise. I felt very small amidst them. I was humbled.
Coming out I was on a different plane. My search for faith was answered inside the DYT hall among the relics of Bhutan. I felt blessed.
Rangjung would surely add to my faith.