June 24, 2010

Dzhongs of Bhutan

Dzhongs are a unique and integral part of life in Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon that we had the pleasure of visiting this summer. A dzhong is an architectural structure -- somewhat like a fort -- that brings together the civil and religious administration of the country under a single roof. Most dzhongs have their origin in the military requirements of the local feudal lords but today they contain offices of the district administration and interestingly serve as a residence for Buddhist monks who are responsible for the Buddhist temple that is always colocated in the same premises.

Here are two pictures of the Dzhong at Thimpu

and this is us in Thimphu, the capital city of this tiny, land locked country wedged between India and Tibet.

many of today's architecture in Bhutan is also modelled on the dzongs as you can make out from this picture of the Clock Tower in the central square of Thimphu.

After Thimphu, we crossed the Dochula Pass on our way to Punakha

Punakha is a beautiful town where the river flows through the mountains and I was reminded of my cruise on the Rhine but of course there are no cruise boats here. Only the mountains and the river.

Punakha is also very famous for the Dzhong where the modern Bhutan monarchy was established with the formal coronation of the first king in 1907.

we approached this famous Punakha Dzhong along the river.

and entered it through this gate on the bridge that you can see in the picture above.

this was followed by two steep staircases

that we had to climb to reach the interior

to marvel at the glorious interiors. Unfortunately, photography of the temple with its massive golden statue of Guru Rimpoche was not possible.

Our next stop was Wangdue, another really picturesque town where mountains, river and our hotel -- the Dragon's Nest -- met at the same point.

Wangdue too has its own beautiful dzhong at the confluence of two rivers. Note the colour of the water of the two rivers, one clear and one muddy !

As you can see, the Wangdue dzong is also perched on a rather inaccessible mountain

Here are some pictures of the interior

and that is the courtyard

and here are some little lamas running around the largest dzhong courtyard in Bhutan.

after this we left for Paro and on the way we found some really cute brooks with quaint bridges over them.

and the view was indeed spectacular !

Paro has the only functional airport in Bhutan and once again it looks like, what else but, a Dzhong. Here you can see the airport terminal building with the Paro dzhong in the background and even  higher up, the Taa Dzhong.

we spent three days in Paro, walking the streets and shopping ...

this is Main street !

and while walking the streets of Paro we ran into this archery competition. Watch the movie to see how the competitors celebrate a successful hit on the target.

Next day we crossed the river to climb the mountain on which the dzong is situated.

and we were rewarded with this aerial view of Paro town.

actually there are two dzongs in Paro ..

the main Paro dzong in front and up and to the left, there is the Taa Dzong.

which is of an unusual cylindrical shape and now houses the National Museum of Bhutan.

but by this time, Monsoon was finally catching up with us in Paro

and it was time for us to leave the hills ... through the swirling clouds.

and then rise above the clouds to take the SpiceJet flight home !

For a more detailed story about our Bhutan trip, read these two posts [ Bhubanmohini Bhutan, and Bhubanmohini Bhutan 2 ] in Indira's Sonartoree Blog.

June 04, 2010

Public Private Partnership in Action at IIT Kharagpur

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The pioneering PPP project gets off the ground in the Indian education sector with the ground breaking for the new IIT Kharagpur, VGSOM hostel by the Director, Prof Damodar Acharya today.