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Contents Page: October, 2010, vol 6 no 3

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Sonam Chhoki

Paro Tsechu

Low to the east Orion’s sword and belt glint. On this Tsechu dawn I light a butter lamp. The miraculous birth and feats of the Lotus-Born will soon unfold in the cobbled forecourt of Rinpung monastery. Thirteen centuries after he graced our land, we still seek illumination of our deepest dreams in his sacred terma.

cloud in the valley –
still the sunflowers
turn towards the east

We surge along the old wooden bridge. The invocations on our lips echo mantras on prayer flags flapping in the mountain breeze. In a haze of juniper and roasted barley incense, we spill into the galleried courtyard to the clang of cymbals and the blare of long trumpets. Sonorous chanting of the monks melds with the whirr of hand-held prayer wheels. The first rays trace the brocade face of the Lotus-Born in the Thongdrel. We heave forward with our offerings.

so many eyes –
bobbing on the river
a piece of driftwood

I feel a sharp edge against my ear. An American leans forward, his hand curled round a camcorder. He zooms into the intricate lotus whorls in the Thongdrel. A toothless woman raises gnarled palms wrapped in prayer beads in front of his lens.

'Fucking shit!' he shouts.

'Look at those things these foreigners carry!' a white-haired man cries ducking away from a video-recording woman.

'What's this picture taking for?' a young pilgrim asks.

'We're all going to become famous,' I joke, as I wrestle with my rachu, which has become entangled among indistinguishable feet. A tap on my shoulder. A Japanese tourist with a clutch of camera straps around his neck, smiles.

'Click click, photo please' he motions to a group of us for permission to shoot.

'Beautiful clothes,' he says.

I'm now far away from the Thongdrel. The paper bag offering of grains and coins is torn in my sweating palm.

a melting glacier
broken into pieces –
spring sunrise


Tsechu : Mask dance festival.

Terma : Sacred hidden treasures including esoteric texts.

Thongdrel : Large tapestry of silk and brocade depicting religious-historical figures of Bhutan. The thongdrel is unveiled at sunrise at the Tsechu mask dance festivals.

Rachu : Ceremonial scarf used for special occasions.

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