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Bhutan – Buddha Dordenma: Marvel at one of the largest Buddha statues in the world

Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe Buddha Dordenma is an iconic monument sitting atop a forest hill overlooking Bhutan’s capital city of Thimphu. Viewable from any part of the city, the massive statue of Shakyamuni is sited amidst Kuensel Phodrang where the palace of Sherab Wangchuck (the thirteenth Desi Druk who ruled the country from 1744 to 1763) once stood. It is one of the largest Buddha Rupas (or statues) in the world measuring at a height of 51.5 metres.  Made of bronze and gilded in gold, the statue alone cost USD$47 million. Manufactured in China, the statue was cut into pieces and then transported to site through Phuentsholing (imagine the awe of wide-eyed Bhutanese villagers seeing the gigantic head of Buddha at the back of a moving lorry, priceless).Bhutan - Buddha Dordenma
This is part of a greater whole, which includes the Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park, a 943-acre nature park inaugurated in 2011 to preserve the forests surrounding the statue. The entire project, which took about 10 years to complete on 25 September 2015, cost over USD$100 million. Locals and tourists alike embrace the park, which is popular for weekend family outings and its biking, hiking and nature trails. The park also hosted the Peling Tsechu, a three-day festival held in May 2016 to commemorate the birth of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe three-storey base houses a large chapel, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 gold statues of Buddha. The statue is expected to be a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate, and retreat.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaApart from commemorating the 60th birth anniversary of Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, it fulfills two prophecies. In the twentieth century, the renowned yogi Sonam Zangpo prophesied that a large statue of either Padmasambhava, Buddha or of a phurba would be built in the region to bestow blessings, peace and happiness to the entire world. The statue itself is mentioned in an ancient terma of Guru Padmasambhava himself, said to date from approximately the 8th century, and recovered some 800 years ago by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer).Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaFor me, I am just happy to be blessed with such an amazing view.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe Buddha Dordenma overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley, and visitors can enjoy a vantage view of Thimphu nestled in the valley below.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThimphu being the capital city is the most developed and densely populated area in Bhutan, so this sight of closely-packed buildings is not the norm in other parts of the country which are mostly mountains, forests and farmlands. With urbanization, Bhutanese youths are increasingly migrating to Thimphu in search of white-collar jobs and a better life. I wonder how many dreams these buildings hold?Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaBhutan - Buddha DordenmaOne thing I know for sure, Bhutan is not ready to give up their unique cultural identity for modernization, and the little kingdom is gingerly treading the waters of urbanization, step by step, without compromising on the values which they have held closely for centuries. If there is a country left in the world who can find a delicate balance between culture and economic progress, it would be Bhutan.

Buddha Dordenma

Opening Hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily
Website: www.buddhadordenma.org
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan

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Botswana – Playful Lion Cubs

Lion Cubs
Cute lion cubs playing at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

Once ranging across the African continent, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and even northwest India, lions have declined from about 450,000 just 50 years ago to as few as 20,000. They now inhabit the grasslands, bushes and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. A small population also lives in India’s Gir Forest.

The name for a baby lion is a cub, whelp or lionet. Lionesses give birth to 2 to 3 cubs at a time. Generally, a few females give birth around the same time. The cubs are then raised together as a pride. All lactating females in a pride nurse each other’s cubs, showing no favoritism for their own offspring. This is because each lioness is enhancing her own genes’ success by helping to raise her sisters’ offspring. African male lions generally play no paternal role when it comes to raising the cubs – in a nutshell they get the females knocked up, leave the females to raise the young and hunt for food for the whole pride while they sleep 16-20 hours a day, spending the rest of the time patrolling his territory and going home for meals the lionesses have caught for him. (If the lion was human we would have called him an a**hole, but that’s how the animal world works. It’s all about survival and ensuring your own lineage. Without the male lion’s protection, the whole pride may be eaten up by other predators)

Vulnerable to predators like hyenas, leopards, black-backed jackals, and prone to being trampled by large animals like buffaloes, lion cubs have a 60-70% mortality rate. They are also susceptible to being killed by other adult male lions who will kill all cubs not sired by them so they can have their own with the lionesses when they take over a pride. For this reason, cubs remain hidden for one to two months before being introduced to the rest of the pride. In the wild, lions live for an average of 12 years and up to 16 years. They live up to 25 years in captivity.

Lionesses stay within the pride all their lives but male lions either leave of their own accord or are driven off by the pride males at two to three years of age (we call that the “awkward teenage period”). Usually there is only one male lion per pride, or a few male lions from the same offspring may form a coalition to have a pride. This makes the pride stronger and less susceptible for takeover by other male lions.

Information sources: National Geographic Kids, Animal Fact Guide, and our guides Isak Pretorius and Kyle De Nobrega.

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