The dog year did not see major religious activities in the country.

Being election year, the Zhung Dratshang, religious institutions and personalities across the country chose to remain above politics. No religious ceremonies like annual Moenlam Chhenmo (Great Prayer) and other empowerment or teachings were initiated until the completion of the parliamentary elections.

However, the activities picked up after the election with His Holiness the Je Khenpo, Trulku Ngawang Jigme Chhoedra, beginning a religious tour at home and abroad.

For the first time, His Holiness presided over a seven-day Moenlam Chhenmo in Rajgir, India. A sacred event to honour Buddha’s teaching more than 2,500 years ago.

On November 11, at the same sacred place, His Holiness the Je Khenpo presided over the auspicious chanting of the Manjushrinamasamgiti (the Tantra on the perfection of wisdom) and the Heart Sutra (the essence of the Prajnaparamita teachings) joined by an estimated 10,000 monks and nuns and lay devotees from Bhutan and all over India. The place was the sacred Bamboo Grove where the Buddha lived and taught. The event was the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Bhutanese Lhakhang in Rajgir to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of formal diplomatic ties between Bhutan and India.

The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, attended the foundation-laying ceremony. The Rajgir Project includes construction of a temple, a hostel and a guesthouse on an area of 2.8 acres for the Bhutanese pilgrims. His Holiness returned home on November 23.

On December 17, His Majesty The King, on behalf of the people of Bhutan, conferred the highest civilian decoration in the country, the Order of The Druk Gyalpo to His Holiness the Je Khenpo in recognition of his lifetime of service to the nation. The award was conferred only once to Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, and His Holiness Je Thrizur Tenzin Dendup in 2008.

Known as an ecclesiastical reformer and propagator of Dharma in contemporary Bhutanese society, His Holiness also donated seven ambulances to the health ministry after performing the purification rituals (Lhabsang Thruesel) on June 19 last year. The seven ambulances, which cost about Nu 7.76M (million) were offered to His Holiness by devotees from abroad. Three ambulances were given to the regional referral hospital in Mongar, Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse hospitals as instructed by His Holiness. Samtse and Pemagatshel hospitals received an ambulance each while Punakha hospital was given two ambulances.

His Holiness consecrated the 50ft tall Drimed Namnyi choeten in Samdrupjongkhar on December 24. The proprietor of S.D Eastern Ferro Silicon and S.D Eastern Bhutan Coal Pvt Ltd constructed the choeten at a cost of about Nu 8.5 million. His Holiness also conducted the Moenlam Chhenmo in Ngabglam, Pemagatshel.

Rinzin Wangchuk