Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tselung Nye, the sacred place of prophetic longevity

Bhutan flaunts a mélange of staggering ethereal beauty, fluttering prayer flags and a host to ancient monasteries throughout its mountainous villages. There are holy places that instantly calm our hearts down and exude the religious aura within us. And Tselung Nye was one among many that I visited recently. Tselung Nye is one of the most popular sacred destinations located west of Thimphu. It is hardly an hour drive from Gidakom Hospital, where I work. Coinciding with the Descending Day of Lord Buddha on 22nd day of the 9th Bhutanese month, i.e. 3rd November, I with my friends had a wonderful trip. Journey was breathtaking. The sky was tinged with ice cool white clouds. Birds sang hymn of accolades as we unfolded the auspicious Descending Day of Lord Buddha in our humble hearts. It’s the time of the year again when we beseech the almighty to bless all the sentient beings with sun of peace and harmony.
The day started with stringent cold of foggy morning, yet the heatless rays of sun sang a soothing song of excitement. We started our journey after much discussion on the things we were supposed to carry as an offering at the Nye, driving through the narrow Bjemina valley roads tasselled with houses and the golden paddy fields. With a big smile on our faces, we were into the world of music shaking our heads with the rhythm of our favourite songs piercing our ears beyond the decibels humans are intended to endure. Yet nothing could distract us from such a ripe opportunity of life that thrilled the entire network of neuron in our bodies.
  Just after crossing Chimithangka, our van couldn’t carry us any further through the winding uphill rough road. We got down and walked more than a kilometre. It was the perfect time to embrace the mesmerising beauty of Mother Nature. The trees had bloomed into the colour of autumn flowers. The air was redolent with the scent of pine needles. We took few snaps snuggling up each other, serenaded by the picturesque backdrop of the gentle breeze as we waited for our driver to pull up his van. Our driver, kipchu sir drove past us with the gamut of emotions of winning the battle of climbing the uphill road and stopped at a distance. We climbed in and the journey resumed with the music blasting aloud.
Travelling for more than few kilometres, we finally reached the last stoppage. The parking was jammed. There was very little place for our van. Our driver squeezed into a narrow lane and parked there.
The Nye was located on the gentle sloppy hill, lopsidedly bifurcated by the river. The rustling of the trees in the breeze and the prayer flags fluttering overhead was extremely soothing.
The real pilgrimage started with visiting a fascinating cave that defines our virtue and sin down below the parking area. Toward the other side of the river, we were blessed by the remarkable Rocky Tent Place where Guru Rimpoche did his contemplation.
Just above the parking lot, sipping a palmful of “Tse-chhu”, Hundred Dakinis’ holy water for long life, we ascended up through the paved footpaths seldom capturing the beauteous scenes that appealed to our sense on phone’s camera. On the right side of the Tse-chhu, we saw a majestic Skull of celestial beings.
Many religious people adorned in their best attires had gathered to get the blessing from the sacred place of prophetic longevity. Toward the far left from the Skull of Celestial Being, we were taken aback by an appealing Hermitage of Khandro Nangkha Dolma. Back to the main footpath, before entering the Mani Dungkhor, on the right side, there was remarkable Hermitage of Guru Rimpoche. Entering a small main gate and after circumambulation of the prayer wheel thrice, we entered the temple only to be mesmerised by the religiously sacred paintings and the holy Nangtens. Once inside the temple lama narrated the history of what people mistakenly call as ‘Tsalu Nay.’ He described every relics of the temple and the main relic was Guru Rimpoche. According to the lama, Tselung Nye was blessed by Guru Rimpoche and Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal between the 8th and 9th century and hidden many sacred religious treasures, making the place exceptionally holy. Tselung Nye was also been blessed according to lama, by Phajo Drugom Tharpa Gyaltshen (1179-1249), Gyalwang Je Kunga Paljor (1428-1476), Drukchen Ngawang Chogyal (1465-1540), Drukpai Wangchuk Kunga Lekpa (1455-1570), PelingThuksey Dawa Gyentshen (1499-1587), Neyphu Tulku Yongzin Ngawang Drakpa (1525-1599), and religious king Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who visited the place in person on their way to Paro via Pumola and Drela. Terton Drukdra Dorji, while in Pumola, received many prophecies from the Dakinis and in accordance with these prophecies, he came to Tselung Nye and discovered many powerful treasures.
The lama went on saying about the meditation quarter, popularly known as the Place of Gathering of the Dakinis was extended by the 32nd Je Khenpo Tsheltrim Gyaltshen who was an accomplished siddha in the mantra of Khandro Senge Donchen, the lion-headed Dakinis. After praying and offering our Nyendar and sipping Threchhu of sanctity, we walked out and took few snaps of the map of Tselung Nye. Along with the guidance of few friends who already visited the Nye before and the map of the Nye, we visited every legacy left by Guru Rimpoche and Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal for the benefit of future sentient beings. It’s believed that Guru Rimpoche had hidden many sacred treasures, and that made the place exceptionally divine. Walking a few distances up the main temple, apart from few tranquil Tshamkhangs, the “NO ENTRY” Tselung Yueselcholing Drupdra lies composed not yet consecrated and as par the lama, the Drupdra would be inaugurated by 2017. Descending down from just above a Tshamkhang, there was the unbelievable Lhacham Pemasal’s Skull filled with the water of longevity and adjacent to that was the out of the ordinary Lhatso Flord, Life Lake where Guru Rimpoche believed to have hidden the sacred religious treasures.
The beautiful waves of azure Lake broke on to the pristine crafted rocks and the roar of the fast flowing river into the lake echoed amid the dense bushy Nye chanting the prayers of long life.
Crossing the river and moving to the right side of the river, on the way to the jaw-dropping stone vase where Guru and Khandro believed to have taken bath, there was the magnificent Beak of Garuda crafted rock and walking further, there were the exciting footprints of cow and calf in the rock. Opposite to the stone vase separated by the river, we could see one of the most important legacies, the worthy of note Religious Medicine Pill.
Toward right of the Beak of Garuda, we saw an astounding artefact of Guru Rimpoche’s Riding Horse. Descending from the Riding Horse, we encountered overwhelming Resting Place of Guru Rimpoche and the enormous Crown of Guru Rimpoche. Beside the wonderful historical imprints, our eyes were wide opened at the sight of a large rock with dints of different prints, namely the out of the blue Hand Print of Guru Rimpoche, Rosary Bead, Wisdom Eye and Gold Fish.
As well as visiting the place in person, Guru Rimpoche and Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal also left behind their amazing prints and many other attention-grabbing artefacts in the rocks. After more than hour pilgrimage around the serene Tselung Nye we were all gratified by the legacies of breathtaking pious sanctuary of Tselung Nye and the impulse of visiting again sprout in our modest hearts.
The present monastery was renovated in the year 1990’s with the assistance of Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck and Ten-Sung-Lopen Dasho Wangchuck, the great patron of the Dharma. Among many sacred places sanctified by Guru Rimpoche in our country, Tselung Nye is one of the most significantly propitious pilgrim sites. The Nye is a must visit place of worship for long life.

Durga Puja Celebration at Kolkata

The sun has risen upon the azure sky. The birds sang hymn of accolades as the Kolkata unfolds itself to the biggest of all festival, Durga Puja. All of now felt the difference in fragrance of air. Nature in Bengal dressed up for celebration. As the kaash phool blooms and sways in white streaks in the sylvan fields, the sky tingled blue with white clouds. It’s that time of the year again when we usher in Maa Durga with much pomp and how. Durga Puja is celebrated every year in the Hindu month of Ashwin (September-October) and commemorates prince rama's invocation of the goddess before going to war with the demon king Ravana. This autumnal ritual was different from the conventional Durga Puja, which is usually celebrated in the springtime. So, this Puja is also known as 'akal-bodhan' or out-of-season ('akal') worship ('bodhan').
Durga Puja - the ceremonial worship of the mother goddess, is one of the most important festivals of India. Apart from being a religious festival for the Hindus, it is also an occasion for reunion and rejuvenation, and a celebration of traditional culture and customs. While the rituals entails ten days of fast, feast and worship, the last four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - are celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal, where the ten-armed godness riding the lion is worshipped with great passion and devotion.
Durga puja,the most happening festival of the Bengalis can be sensed with its spurt of fanfare on all the four days of the Durga Puja festival. This autumnal festival popularly known as Sharodotsav, recalls the power of female Shakti symbolized by the Goddess Durga who slays asura to reestablish peace and sanctity on earth again. Bengalis all over the world during these days of Durga Puja rejoice to their heart's content reconnecting with friends and relatives. Durga Puja is an occasion when the familiar sound of Dhak, Dhunuchi nachh,the mild fragrance of Shiuli, gives a familiar tug to every Bengali heart.
My experience of Durga Puja at kolkata, is most memorable moment here at west Bengal. Ideally the city became busy at least a month before the festival starts and we see the finishing touches being put on the pandals and idols of the goddess. It’s the festival of lights…Kolkata glistened to the lights of Durga puja celebration, people charmed with traditional attires. Bengali women usually wear traditional sarees like tussar, katha stitch, cotton and silk. However modern girls prefer fashionable sarees like bandhni silk, gujarati silk, etc while most tiptoed with tight geans with short kameezes.
The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Goddess Durga installed in homes and beautifully decorated podiums all over the city. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much music and dancing, and then immersed in the water.
The beautifully handcrafted idols of Godness Durja are magnificent and stunning. Durga Puja officially gets underway early on the morning of Saptami, the seventh day of Navaratri. A special ritual is performed to infuse the energy of the Goddess into the idols, installed on podiums across the city. This is done through a small banana plant called a Kola Bou. Accompanied by drummers and the chanting of mantras by a Hindu priest, the Kola Bou is bathed and purified in the river. It's then dressed up in a sari with a red border and carried, in a procession, back to the idol where it's placed alongside Lord Ganesh (son of Goddess Durga). Many people consider the Kola Bou to be Lord Ganesh's wife.
The highlight of Durga Puja is no doubt visiting the many different displays (pandals) of Goddess Durga, each with a unique theme. This activity is often referred to a "pandal hopping". There are thousands of pandals in Kolkata so it's only possible to visit a fraction of them -- and even then it requires a bit of strategic planning as they're spread out all over the city. You'll find the most well known ones in north and south Kolkata, which is conveniently connected by the Metro railway. The most popular time for pandal hopping is in the night when they're lit up. If you go during the day, you can avoid much of the crowd.
There's never a better time to sample Kolkata's famous Bengali cuisine than Durga Puja. The festival isn't considered to be complete without food! You'll find a wide array of it everywhere -- on the streets, at the pandals, and in specialty Bengali restaurants.  Pandal hopping does get tiring, so eating while you're out and about is a must. The food served to visitors at the pandals is called bhog (offerings to the god which are distributed). It commonly consists of mixed vegetable curry, a sweet dish, fried item, and chutney. Kolkata's Bengali restaurants also have exclusive Durga Puja menus packed full of authentic delicacies -- both buffet and a la carte.
On the last day of Durga Puja, known as Dashami, the festivities commence with married women placing red sindoor (powder) on the idols of Goddess Durga. They then smear it on each other. In the evening, the idols are immersed in the water. One of the most popular immersion points is Babu Ghat (centrally located near Eden Garden), although you'll be able to catch the action at any of the ghats along the river. An excellent way of seeing it is by boat. 

The Durga Puja festival is an extremely social and theatrical event. Drama, dance, and cultural performances are widely held. Food is a huge part of the festival, and street stalls blossom all over Kolkata. In the evenings, the streets of Kolkata fill with people, who come to admire the statues of Goddess Durga, eat, and celebrate...