The 16 arhats
Guru Lhakhang consecrated
Chhoetse Penlop
Neten Chudrug Thongdroel
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Religious treasure added to Tashichhodzong
With the consecration of a newly built Neten Chudrug (16 Arhats) Thongdroel by His Holiness the Je Khenpo on February 20, 2002 an invaluable religious treasure has been added to Trashichhodzong.

Measuring 43 by 64 ft, the Thongdroel depicting the Buddha Shakyamuni, surrounded by his 16 followers (Arhats), was created under His Holiness' initiative. His Holiness also contributed Nu. 1.6 million to construct the Thongdroel which took six months of meticulous and painstaking work for 13 artists. It will be unfurled to the public annually on the 15th day of the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar, coinciding with the Duechhen Ngazom (Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana) celebration.

"The success of creating this unique masterpiece goes to the concerted efforts of embroidery master, Lopon Ugyen, and his artists who put long hours into the making of the Thongdroel," said the deputy secretary of the Dratshang Lhentshog, Ngawang Phuntsho. "If we did not put in extra efforts it would have taken at least a year or so," Lopon Ugyen, who built more than 14 various Thongdroels over the years, said.

The need for the Neten Chudrug Thongdroel was felt when His Holiness initiated a special prayer ceremony last year as an annual event on the sacred occasion of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana which is celebrated all over the Buddhist world. "Since we do not have this Thongdroel in Trashichhodzong we had to hire and bring the Sangay Tsokhorsum Thongdroel all the way from Dagana dzong during the celebration of Duechhen Ngazom last year," Ngawang Phuntsho said. According to religious beliefs, a mere sight of thongdroel liberates sentient beings from the transmigratory existence through its great cleansing power.

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper

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Tashichhodzong: Tendrel Thang
Seventy-year-old Ap Dago from Paro has never missed Thimphu Tsechu. This year was his fourth decade of attendance. But this time, his experience has been an altogether different one.

After witnessing Thimphu Tsechu inside the Tashichhodzong courtyard for so long, Ap Dago said that observing the festival outside the dzong in an open space was "unusual and exciting".

Ap Dago's view about Thimphu Tsechu being held in the new ground, Tendrel Thang, was shared by many, who had come to witness the three-day event, which began on 8 October 2008.

Many say that, with the increase in population, the new ground has created a comfortable ambience that helped them enjoy and cherish the event even more. Most said finding a place to sit or even stand had become a major problem in recent years.

"I remember people exchanging blows for seats," said Ap Dago.

Taujay from Pemagatshel said that he hated the part where they had to wait in line for long hours before they got to enter the courtyard. "We were sunburnt and exhausted by the time we managed to get inside, only to find that we had no place to sit. Now we don't have to worry at all," he said.

Threndel Thang, which had the capacity to accommodate about 25,000 people, was occupied by over 10,000 people daily.

Meanwhile, the new ground has brought relief not just to the locals but to tour operators and tourists as well.

Tshering Samdrup, who had been working as a tourist guide for last nine years, said that they received complaints from their guests about the limited space to move around and take pictures. "Tourists used to come for the festival after paying a huge amount and the crammed space and uncomfortable ambience disappointed them," he said, adding that now the guests could move around freely and enjoy the performances.

The new ground was built at a total cost of Nu 100 million.

This article was contributed by Tenzin Namgyel, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2008

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Change in Timing to visit Tashichhodzong
The Tourism Council of Bhutan informs all the tour operators that the timing for the visit to the Tashichhodzong by the touristshas been changed as follows:

1. Summer Timing - 1730 hours -1830 hours

2. Winter Timing - 1630 hours - 1730 hours

This has with reference to the Royal Bhutan Police letter Ref.No.RBP/HQs/VIP-security/TD-125/2009/168 dated 20th October, 2009.

Source: Tourism Council of Bhutan, October 2009
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