In the company of nuns in Bhutan

The little sis and I had a great experience chatting with the nuns at the oldest nunnery in Bhutan. We had to work hard to get to the place – an hour of hiking uphill along some lovely forests of pine, fir and rhododendrons ( etho-metho in Bhutanese ).

The trail to Kila Goempa was on the way to Chele-la. We persuaded our driver L to accompany us (little sis’s idea actually) – which was great because he had to translate for us.. none of the nuns were conversant in English. We followed a train of nuns all the way to the nunnery.

The monastery looked a little like the Tiger’s NEst ( Taktshang), clinging to the side of a cliff. There were spectacular views of the Bhutanese Himalayas.

We chatted with some young nuns – they were really young, and much like other giggling young girls elsewhere. Except they were giggling while making wicks for the butter lamps. And they were living high above a mountain secluded from everyone ( yes, they visited their families once a year).

Anims at Kila Goempa

Anims at Kila Goempa

They said they volunteered to become nuns – one as early as when she was nine years of age.  Was that the real story – or was it poverty? We cannot know. It was difficult to communicate with a translator, though L really did a good job.

The weird bit was this young nun takes out a diary where she had a picture of, no, not Buddha, but a Bollywood actress. and then she shows us some lyrics of “Kaho Na Pyaar Hai” that she had written down ( some of it was right !). The music playing in the wooden room heated by the Bukhara was a Bhutanese rap song! I no longer have any illusions of nuns and monks spending time only in meditation and prayer !

We then met an 85year old nun  -she’d been there for 40 years now. Her wooden floor had deep impressions where she stood in prayer, as many as 1000 times a day. She looked really frail – but when we asked for a photo, her feminine vanity came back and she brought out a colorful rosary to make things really picturesque..

"Grandmother" nun posing for a photo

"Grandmother" nun posing for a photo

From the nunnery, we went up to the Chele La pass, the highest pass in Bhutan. It was extremely windy- the prayer flags fluttered in the chilly wind as we took in the view of the mountains. Nobody else was up there – the peace and quiet was great.

On the way back from the monastery, we passed by a Yak herder’s camp. A group of Yaks were grazing on the meadows.. little sis went crazy with the camera.  I went crazy taking pics ofthe lovely wildflowers.

Wildflowers on the trail to Kila Goempa

Wildflowers on the trail to Kila Goempa

Back in Paro now, and heading to Guwahati tomorrow. As usual, the feeling is bittersweet – I am missing my daughter, so I am looking forward to getting back.  But I dont want to leave this beautiful country.

I think the solution is to come here with N and Appa 🙂


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