Thursday, April 19, 2018

In the Land of the Divine Madman VII

May 19, 2003

We pulled out of Jakar, taxis in line with their yellow roofs. A house on the outskirts of town had intricate designs on the walls, one flame looking a lot like the symbol for Amnesty International.  After about half an hour we came to Pra Ngatshang.  Approaching the temple, we crossed an old rickety wooden bridge over an extremely fast river.  Atop a ridge stood a chortan, and just behind it was a prayer wheel, driven by water fed down a trough at the back, into paddle-like gears at the wheel's base.  The whole temple and village had a medieval feel, with the light rain and wispy clouds up the hillside.  In the main hall of the temple was an Amitayus statue with his consort in the yab-yum position.  Most pictures have the female looking up from below, but this one was leaning in sideways as if really planting a kiss.  There was a definite eroticism to it all, more than I've ever seen in an image.  The paintings in this room were incredible, strings and glue adding a 3D quality to the geometric patterns on the altar itself.  The walls below the mandalas were painted with a multi-colored mosaic.  Two skull masks hung above a curtain covered with skulls, protector deities for the lama beyond.  Fabric hung like dozens of neckties sewn together.  

We wandered into another room containing the mummified body of Dawa Gyeltshen, placed in a gold chorten.  A can of Pringles held incense, sitting on the floor next to a large spittoon. From the window I could look down on the two adjoining houses where two women were weaving, and another was spinning yarn from a frame.  On the adjoining balcony, a little boy was trying to climb through a frame, which kept folding up like a beach chair.  He propped it up in a doorway, but after much trouble he gave up.  We went up yet another floor to an incredibly dusty, smokey room that seemed almost like a Taoist hermitage, with Chinese paintings glazed onto the walls.  In a small building across the garden was a shrine built to honor Dawa Gyeltshen's dead mother.  There was a group of various deities with Shakyamuni at the center.  On the wall behind were dozens of painted figures, who though male, all had rather nice boobs.  On the lama's altar were tow horns, built from human femurs, with copper fixings, which I'd never seen.  This shrine was dedicated to protector deities and reeked of death.  I felt uncomfortable and left quickly.  

We drove a little further to Zabney, where we stopped at a textile place.  At one point, a dog ran out of a general store with a ram's skull in its mouth.  The same dog climbed into a planter and pissed on a single flower.  

Now began the long haul back to Punakha.  In one village, a dozen dogs slept by the river.  Higher up, there were strange long-tailed birds and fungus hanging from pines like tinsel.  The pass was foggy, like a Chinese painting.  At one point Clarke, bored, threw a balloon out the window to some kids.  Coming across a couple of cute little girls a few miles later, he tried to blow up a balloon for them but it burst in his face, scaring them.  Their eyes lit up when he gave them candy.  We also had fun with the kids in a village where we had a pee break.  They surrounded our car, smiled, and carried on.

We passed through blacked out Wangdi, its Dzong ghostly on the hill.  Arrived at Punakha late, around 9:00...

On the turntable: Chick Corea Akoustic Band, "Live from the Blue Note, Tokyo"
On the nighttable:  Tim Mackintosh-Smith, "Travels with a Tangerine"

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