On the western side of Thimphu’s Memorial Chorten, a row of wooden platforms sits in the long grass. Each has been polished smooth by the prostrations of faithful worshippers who gather here in sun, rain or snow, to pay their respects to His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–1972), the Third King of Bhutan.
The chorten, with its elaborate golden peak representing the crescent moon and sun, is one of Thimphu’s most striking religious landmarks. Constructed in 1974, the Tibetan-style chorten’s whitewashed exterior boasts richly decorated chapels – one facing each of the cardinal directions.
The sound of bells and murmured prayers wafts on the breeze and butter lamps flicker in a side chapel. People of all ages gather here to pray and walk in clockwise circles around the chorten. Schoolchildren stop in on their way home, and an elderly crowd of regulars sets up camp daily at dawn to while away the day spinning the huge prayer wheels that stand near the entrance.