Guru Thongdrel

Look for the Lam

The Paro Tsechu ended yesterday, with the unfurling of the Guru Thongdrel. His Majesty the King graced the final day of the popular festival, as thousands of people braved the cold and rain to receive the sacred thongdrel’s blessings.

Dasho Sangay Dorji, a leading dzongkha language expert, says that the gigantic tapestry was commissioned by the second Paro Penlop, Ngawang Choeda, and constructed by Lam Ngawang Rabgay more than 350 years ago.

Parops love to tell stories about their thongdrel. According to one, Lam Ngawang Rabgay sent a trader to Tibet to barter rice for brocade. But the trader was given strict instructions to deal only with the first businessman he would encounter there. The trader followed his Lama’s instructions faithfully and procured a Chinese merchant’s entire stock of brocade – that person was the first businessman that the trader had met in Lhasa. Back in Paro, the trader was amazed to discover that he had unknowingly purchased the exact types and amounts of brocade that was needed for the thongdrel.

In another story, the Parop Penlop himself traveled incognito to Tibet and gambled with Lhasa’s treasurer. The penlop won, and returned to Bhutan with the treasurer’s entire stock of brocade. That stock was exactly sufficient to construct his thongdrel.

The thongdrel, reputedly Bhutan’s first, features Guru Pema Jungey and his two consorts, surrounded by Guru Rimpoche’s eight manifestations, the Choe-Lung-Truel Sum, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. At the bottom of the thongdrel is one more figure: that of Lam Ngawang Rabgay, who made sure that future generations would gaze on him with eternal gratitude.

The banner, of Paro’s famous tsechu grounds, celebrates our rich heritage.


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  2. Your excellency, in continuation to that wonderful story… I heard that during the making of the Thongdrel, it’s said that Paro Penlop and many other dignitaries were watching the Lam who was tasked to make the Thongdrel (Must be Nawang Rabgay).
    As it was the first of its kind to be done he was not confident, it was made worse by the many eyes that were upon him. But he has already expressed his fear to his root lam before venturing on the task where the root lam had blessed him and told him not to worry at all.
    On the fateful day, people saw him draw the images of Guru and other figures with so much ease and swiftness over the vast spread of textile. The lam later revealed that the movement of his hand was guided by his root lam that came to help him in a form of a bee, flying over the textile and guiding every move he was to make.

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