The late afternoon sun was beating down gently over the valley. I opened my umbrella, and set off outside. Walking. I wanted to stroll around this beautiful valley of Paro and explore everything in my short stay here. For, I’ve always loved Paro. So much. If there’s a paradise on earth, then Paro truly is.
Paro Town, located at an altitude of 2250m above the sea level, has bosomed a population of over 20,000. This small town stunningly retains a distinct traditional architecture with richly decorated buildings. It’s very unique and profound.
As I passed over the street, I carefully scanned it - the shops, small buildings, and natives. The town, serene and splendid, sells local weaving products, precious imported stones, local vegetables and fruits, and antique silverwares. It gave me a beguiling charm.
I marched out of the town, and a dozen minutes’ strolling down a road has brought me to a vast plain, lush and green with rice grown abundantly.
I walked in the field, and was greeted by a group of farmers, all weeding together. As they worked, they sang, cheerfully. The songs of rustics, the songs of theirs, of their own creations, inherited from their ancestors. Meanwhile, they would crack jokes and break into loud laughs. I couldn’t help myself from joining them, so I removed my shoes and jumped into their company.
I helped them pulling out weeds as I joined laughter with them. The sun was heavy on our backs, but it didn’t, at all, deter us from laughing and working. And, my new found mates kept singing, they kept laughing.
My small observation has found that these farmers live in a plentitude and bliss, owing to their fertile valley. Politics seems so trivial a matter for them; whereas, the materialism has been remained all the more secondary. They remain firm and rooted to what they have been doing for generations – practising a simple, strong and happy life, their culture and values ever integrated.
After that I walked a footpath, uphill, that follows a tiny village way up on the mountain. On the way, I met farmers leaving for their homes after the day’s farm work, grateful and happy. We exchanged greetings, Kuzuzangpola. We exchanged, too, serene smile.
On this hilltop, beside a prayer flag pole, I sat down. The hill has amazing views looking down at the valley, the wide and beautiful valley of Paro. Paro Chu, flowing gently south, feeds the entire valley, the farmlands.
On the hill other side, Paro Rinpung Dzong, a fortress stands overlooking this giant piece of Paro valley as if safeguarding the valley since eternity. Right above the Dzong stands an ancient watchtower called Ta Dzong, the National Museum of Bhutan. It’s so fascinating to see a medieval bridge, built in ornate style, over the Paro Chu, further decorating the place.
As I stood on the hilltop, still looking down, I remembered everything about the valley. All that I had studied in the classrooms, during my school days. Names of the legends. Dates. Incidents. Everything. One by one, they came as a rich and significant history, slowly understood. The valley is full of legends, heroism, glories, and natural splendor.
I remembered and understood, gradually, how this Rinpung Dzong had served as an effective defense against numerous Tibetan invasion attempts. Also, I recalled when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel came here in 1616 from Tibet and established dual system of governance. More eloquently, I remembered how the Paro Poenlop was defeated by Ugyen Wangchuk, the Trongsa Poenlop at the end of 19th century and became the first king of Bhutan in 1907.
All this culminated what Bhutan still is a sovereign and peaceful nation. Perhaps Paro could be the place from where the concept of Gross National Happiness has been inspired and proliferated.