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Voices of Oklahoma Web Story on Being a Fulbright in Bhutan

"OU Professor serves as first American Fulbright Scholar in Bhutan"

The Voices of Oklahoma Web Magazine has just published this article on our visit to Bhutan:

http://www.voicesofok.org/2010/02/ou-professor-serves-as-first-american-fulbright-scholar-in-bhutan/

There is a great photo essay with pictures taken by my wife Rebecca Sherry that accompany this article here:

http://www.voicesofok.org/2010/02/first-american-fulbright-in-bhutan-photo-essay/

Posted by mgivel 09:01 Archived in Bhutan Tagged educational Comments (1)

Bhutan National Day Celebration

Changlimthang National Stadium, Thimphu--December 17, 2009

sunny

Much to my surprise, I received an invitation from the Royal Government of Bhutan to observe in a distinguished visitor's enclosure at Changlimthang National Stadium in Thimphu--Bhutan's National Day celebration on December 17, 2009. The National Day celebration is an annual event that observes the establishment of the hereditary Wangchuck monarchy that was established on December 17, 1907.

Seating for this important Bhutanese state event was threefold. Many citizens and visitors were seated in the Changlimthang Stadium's large arena seating area. There were also two distinguished visitor enclosures on the grass field of which I sat in one. In my enclosure were a number of high ranking Bhutanese military officers and government officials. Finally, the royal family and important governmental members such as ministers and members of parliament and their families sat in a separate review stand.

The ceremony included the arrival of His Majesty the King in an impressive Chhipdrel Procession with Royal Guards. This was followed by a Bhutanese flag hoisting by the Guard of Honour.

Bhutan Musical Honor Guard

Bhutan Musical Honor Guard

Royal Bhutan Honor Guard

Royal Bhutan Honor Guard

Traditional Bhutanese Military Uniform

Traditional Bhutanese Military Uniform

Then His Majesty addressed the nation, which included awarding honors and medals to several citizens. Finally, a traditional dance and cultural celebration occurred.

Traditional Dancer

Traditional Dancer

Ceremonial Dance Around Tree II

Ceremonial Dance Around Tree II

The following is a video sample of the cultural dances that were performed:

This was followed by a Tashi Lebey or the final traditional dance.

Final Traditional Dance

Final Traditional Dance

Guests in the distinguished visitor's enclosure were also provided with traditional Bhutanese food served in a Zhechha Zherey. Zhechha Zherey is a traditional Bhutanese (usually wooden) bowl that all visitors were expected to bring. I found a nice one the day before at a local handicraft shop not too far from where the celebration was taking place. The food was quite good.

Posted by mgivel 19:56 Archived in Bhutan Tagged events Comments (0)

Pilgrimage to the Seat of Enlightenment

By Becky, Nov. 8-10

So far, we have made one foray out of Bhutan and into India, Nov. 8-10. DrukAir flights to Bangkok stop in Gaya, in the Indian state of Bihar. The tiny airport serves pilgrims on their way to Bodh Gaya, the town that has sprung up around the site where Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. We took advantage of this to make the trip our selves. The nearly empty, four-gate terminal may be the only airport in this predominantly Hindu country with a large Buddha inside the main entrance (also the exit) of the terminal. The music from their loud speakers is a very haunting chant; I never was able to figure out what it was.

The tree at the centre of this UNESCO World Heritage site is a Ficus religiosa, or sacred fig, commonly know as the Bodhi tree. A temple complex has grown around it over the years. The first temple was built here about 250 BCE, about 250 years after Buddha, by the Emperor Asoka. Some of the railing around the tree date from this time. Asoka’s daughter is said to have taken a branch from the tree and planted it in Sri Lanka, where another famous temple complex was built. Asoka also placed a stone seat beneath the tree on the spot he thought Buddha sat, which has become known as the diamond throne. Legend says that Asoka’s wife grew jealous of the time Asoka spent at the tree in prayer and meditation and killed the tree by stabbing it with a knife. A cutting from the tree in Sri Lanka was sent for and planted on the same spot, which is believed to be the navel of the world by some Buddhists and Hindus.

The current temple was built on the site of Asoka’s temple in the 6th century and fell into decline in the 12th century when Muslims invaded the region. Although some repairs were attempted, the largest and last renovation occurred in the 1880s. The temple is built of brick and rises to an impressive height of 55 meters. Words really can’t do it justice, so here's a picture:

MTemple1.jpg

Although we had to take our shoes off at every temple, they didn't bother to prevent picture taking because of the large numbers of tourists and pilgrims.

Inside the Mahabodhi Temple

Inside the Mahabodhi Temple

Today both Hindus and Buddhists revere the spot and come on pilgrimages. Flocks of monks are in constant attendance, some chanting around the tree, other doing prostrations in the gardens that surround the temple.

Every Buddhist country in Asia has built a temple or monastery nearby. These are fascinating in themselves, reflecting the culture and style of their home country. We found the Veitnamese temple to be the most peakceful.

Vietnamese Temple courtyard

Vietnamese Temple courtyard

The population of the town includes many Tibetans, who have their own market at one end of town. At the end of the street down from the Tibetan temple, the Dalai Lama built a giant Buddha statue, 25 m high, containing inside 20,000 smaller Buddhas, and surrounded by statues of Buddha’s disciples.

Tibetan Temple

Tibetan Temple

Giant Buddha

Giant Buddha

To see more of my pictures from Bodh Gaya, visit http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/rsherry/

Posted by rsherry 05:29 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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