Thimphu is richer by another monument.
In a grand ceremony, the much-awaited Hindu mandir, now called Devi Panchayan mandir, was consecrated yesterday.
Besides the picturesque physical structure at Kuenselphodrang, the place of worship for the growing Hindu community in the capital city comes with a huge spiritual significance.
The mandir, built in traditional Bhutanese architecture, symbolizes the close connection between Hinduism and Buddhism. The two religions co-existed for centuries, respecting and appreciating the values each propagated.
Hinduism is one religion most Buddhist can relate to easily.
This is because beside the traditions of worshipping, there are many common gods and deities. For instance, goddess Durga is Lhamo Dzongnyenma, Mahakali is Pelden Lhamo and Lord Genesha is now finding a prominent space in the rooms of the wealthy Buddhists.
The worship place is also easily interchangeable. That’s why we see a lot of Hindus visiting our temples and monasteries, not as curious tourists, but as devotees. The reception ceremony yesterday was not different from a chipdrel ceremony except for the religious instruments. The chairperson of the Royal Privy Council, Speakers of the two houses attended the consecration ceremony.
At the consecration ceremony, the devotees were offering their gratitude to His Majesty the King who gifted the mandir to the Hindu community. Our Constitution provides for the protection of all faith. While Buddhism is the state religion, the gift from the Throne symbolizes respect for choice of faith and the tolerance. As Buddhists, we do not differentiate the practice of spirituality no matter what it is called. The foundation of the mandir was laid by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
This is important. At a time when disputes and disagreements over religious beliefs have been and continue to be sources of conflict around the world, the new worship place speaks volumes of our commitment to religious pluralism. This is not the first Hindu mandirs in the country.
Buddhism and Hinduism had always co-existed comfortably in Bhutan. There is no friction because one does not claim superiority over the other. Bhutanese Buddhists and Bhutanese Hindus respect the shared roots and their similarities.
Hinduism is practised by millions of people around the world. Derived from the religion, staunch orthodox followers of the religion have led to some conflicts. The way our Bhutanese Hindu do is different. The mandir is open to all Hindus. They do not differentiate.
The organisers took tolerance and inclusiveness to another exemplary level when they included two non Brahmin priests to chant prayers at the consecration ceremony. In other places, this will not be possible.
The famous theologian Hans Küng once said: “There will be no peace among the peoples of the world without peace among the world religions.”
He would have appreciated what happened at Kuenselphodrang yesterday.