Why Bhutanese Built Chortens Everywhere

Email

Hundreds of people from all walks of life go to circumambulate the giant whitewashed stupa from dawn till dusk. Building a Chorten or even circumambulating the chorten once is considered to accumulate good merits and beneficial to all the sentient beings.

One of the most popular Chorten ‘ Stupa’ in the capital city of Thimphu is Memorial Chorten built-in memory of the third king of Bhutan. The Chorten is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with its gorgeous paintings and intricate sculptures. Hundreds of people from all walks of life go to circumambulate the giant whitewashed stupa from dawn till dusk. Similarly, places in  Bhutan is adorned with Chortens or Stupas. It can be seen almost everywhere in Bhutan, on hilltops, in the valleys and even on the highways, roundabout, resting place, and pretty much everywhere.   

 The Significance

A chorten is a receptacle for offerings, and in Bhutan, all chortens contain religious relics. Chortens are often situated in locations considered inauspicious – river junctions, crossroads, mountain passes, and bridges – to ward off evil. The classical chorten shape is based on the ancient Indian form of a stupa. Each of the chorten’s five architectural elements has a symbolic meaning.

The square or rectangular base symbolizes the earth. The hemispherical dome symbolizes water. The conical or pyramidal spire symbolizes fire (the spire has 13 step- like segments that symbolize the 13 steps leading to Buddhahood). On top is a crescent moon and a sun, symbolizing air, and a vertical spike symbolizing ether or the sacred light of the Buddha. Inside is placed a carved wooden pole called a sokshing, which is the life-spirit of the chorten.


Iconic Memorial Chorten 

Some chortens, such as the National Memorial Chorten in Thimphu are built-in memory of an individual. Others commemorate the visit of a saint or contain sacred books or the bodies of saints or great lamas. Bhutan has three basic styles of chorten, usually characterized as Bhutanese, Tibetan, and Nepal.

The Nepali-style chorten is based on classical stupa. On Nepali chortens, the four sides of the tower are painted with a pair of eyes, the all-seeing eyes of Buddha. What appears to be a nose is the Sanskrit character for the number one, symbolizing the absoluteness of the Buddha. The prototypes for the Nepali chortens in Bhutan are Swayambhunath and Bodhnath in Kathmandu. The large chorten kora on Trashi Yangtse and Chendebji chorten near Trongsa are two examples of the Nepali style of chorten.

 


Stupa at Chendepji 

The Tibetan-style chorten has a shape similar to the stupa, but the rounded part flares outward instead of being a dome shape. Thimphu’s National Memorial Chorten is an excellent example of this style.

The Bhutanese design comprises of a square stone pillar with a khimar near the top. The exact origin of this style is not known but is believed to be a reduced form of the classical stupa, with only the pinnacle and square base. Some Bhutanese chorten have a ball and crescent representing the moon and sun on top.


Druk Wangyel Chorten in Dochola 

Several other types of chorten are also found in Bhutan. The khonying (two legs) is an archway that forms a gate over a trail. Travelers earn merit by passing through the structure, which is decorated with interior wall paintings and a mandala on the roof. The mani chukor is shaped like a Bhutanese chorten but is hollow and contains a large prayer wheel. It is built over or near a stream so that the water turns a wooden turbine below the structure, which then turns the prayer wheel.

Merits   

Building a Chorten or even circumambulating the chorten once is considered to accumulate good merits and beneficial to all the sentient beings.


Chorten souvenir from Bhutan Natural 

 


Related Posts

What are the types of traditional dances and music in Bhutan?

In general, there are three classifications of Bhutanese classical and contemporary performance - Zhungdra, Boedra and...

Jan 17, 2021 20:27

Splendid Bhutanese architecture inspired the design of the entire...

The architectures of the Kingdom of Bhutan are undisputedly world-class.

Jan 14, 2021 15:24

A Gen Z's Experience Visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan

As we start to see the world around us speed up, we need to slow down and look around.

Jan 11, 2021 12:07

Bhutan’s postage stamps remain world-renowned in the philatelic...

The first post office landed at the border town of Phuentsholing on 10th October 1962. Bhutanese postage stamps play an...

Jan 07, 2021 10:22

Fostering Green Minds through Green Schools in Bhutan

Bhutan has been trialing a new approach to education since 2009. It's 'Green Schools for Green Bhutan' program is part...

Jan 04, 2021 13:48

Bhutan - The Kingdom with Many New Year Celebrations

If you are a Bhutanese or residence living in Bhutan, you will be fascinated to witness several traditions of...

Dec 26, 2020 01:30

Latest

News

Bhutan is expected to receive the first consignment of the vaccines today

According to Indian media, the consignment of 150,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield for Bhutan was airlifted...

Jan 20, 2021 15:04

What are the different local governments in Bhutan?

Bhutan’s development planning is guided by the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which encompasses four pillars that...

Jan 19, 2021 11:03

Features

What are the types of traditional dances and music in Bhutan?

In general, there are three classifications of Bhutanese classical and contemporary performance - Zhungdra, Boedra and Rigsar.

Jan 17, 2021 20:27

Splendid Bhutanese architecture inspired the design of the entire university campus in Texas

The architectures of the Kingdom of Bhutan are undisputedly world-class.

Jan 14, 2021 15:24

Sports

Contributing to the country through the love for football

It's been a month since the conclusion of Bhutan Premier League 2020. Daily Bhutan interviews Paro FC to find out more about the club. Below...

Dec 21, 2020 17:05

Football clubs in Bhutan gearing up for Bhutan Premier League (BPL) 2020

Bhutan Premier League (BPL), the top national football tournament in Bhutan is set to commence on August 1.

Jul 24, 2020 14:33

Business

Authentic Bhutanese Souvenirs from Eastern Bhutan

Every district and village produce distinct products in Bhutan. To encourage rural communities to produce more authentic souvenirs and...

Dec 25, 2020 22:13

Bhutan- The Kingdom of Peppers

Bhutan is a country with the highest per-capita consumption of chilli.

Sep 26, 2020 09:15

Travel

Get ready for the upcoming record-breaking longest East meets West trekking trail in Bhutan

With the revival and restoration of the historic east-west trails, long-distance trekking is going to be a new tourism product in the...

Jan 25, 2021 10:53

Bhutan Strives to Keep Up With 4th Industrial Revolution through Digitalization in Tourism Sector

The pandemic has affected the tourism industry globally including Bhutan. The stakeholders involved in the tourism industry is taking the...

Jan 12, 2021 00:38

Lifestyle

Elaborate death rituals and funerals by Bhutan's indigeneous community

Unlike majority of the Buddhist population in Bhutan where dead bodies are cremated, for the Lhop community, bodies are buried nearby their...

Jan 27, 2021 00:24

Food on Wheels- First of its kind in Bhutan

The World's Largest Fast Food Restaurant Chains doesn't exist in Bhutan.

Mar 04, 2020 09:39

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!