A city, which is included in almost all Bhutan holiday tour packages, is Thimphu, its capital. Tourism is a popular industry in the city due to the abundance of monasteries, stupas, museums and traditional institutes here. Among them, the Memorial Chorten is a popular place of attraction that attracts hordes of visitors. It was originally constructed in 1974 in the memory of the 3rd king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck by his mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck. Unlike other such chortens or stupas in the kingdom, it has no relics, but only images of the dead emperor. Its design was conceived and construction overseen by a high-ranking lama as per the tradition of the Nyingma school of Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhism.
The monument is built like those in Tibet and has a cuboid-shaped structure. A trapezoid dome tops the stupa, and it is further crowned by a conical golden spire, typical of the construction style of Tibetan chortens. The monument has a garden in front and its boundary walls have depictions of bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani and Manjusri, symbolising compassion, power and knowledge, respectively. On the inner side of the boundary walls are carvings of Padmasambhava, Lord Buddha and Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. There are four entrances, each facing a cardinal direction, and the doors are decorated with religious symbols, statues and shrines, dedicated to the third king.
On a vacation package to this place, tourists can see rows of prayer wheels, decorated with inscriptions and symbols. There are four shrines in the ground floor and each shrine has a photo of the king in a different pose. Behind the shrines are wooden carvings, containing portrayals of wrathful deities. The second floor pays homage to the Kagyu School of Himalayan Buddhism while the third floor is dedicated to a lama, named Gondu. Inside the top storey are paintings, depicting different deities of the Nyingma School and above it is a gallery, which can be circumnavigated by devotees. As per tradition, the stupa is to be circled in the clockwise direction only once in a single visit. Every year a grand prayer festival is held here and its highlight is the public address, delivered by the reining Je Khenpo or the head of the religious order of Bhutan.
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