11.06.2010 22 °C
Today we drove on to Rumtek after an early stop at the Cottage Industries place which was closed yesterday as it was Sunday. There were lots of little stalls in a marquet selling all handmade wares from jewelery to pickles, material woven items to wooden instruments.
I persuaded Sam to have a go of one of the wooden 'violin-like' Selangis hanging on the wall of one stall. It didn't sound too good but with practice I think it will sound a lot better and it was only 1200Rs. The museum of handicrafts upstairs was intriguing, there was a 300 year old wooden pillar from a monastery, an assortment of Tibetan clothing and artifacts, paintings and carpets. We had a look in the two open classrooms, the first contained 5 or 6 girls, each with a giant loom. They used their legs to keep tension on their work, but when one girl was being helped by the teacher she leg her legs relax and swiftly recieved an almighty slap on the thigh from the teacher. I couldn't help but imagine how boring it must be to weave metres and metres of the same pattern! The second room contained boys diong many different handicrafts, painting, drawing the 8 auspicions, painting little coffee tables, carving and mask making. It is nice to see these people learning trades so that they can produce handicrafts to sell. After seeing the people making the items we went back downstairs and bought some more of their wares.
It was 24kn to the Rumtek monastery but due to the pot-holed and windy roads it took just over an hour. The monastery holds the seat of the Kagyud order of monks-the black hats, one of the four major Tibetan Buddhist sects. Once inside we had a quick walk around and a monk started to ring a gong so we sat down to see what happened. A flock of hundreds of monks fled into the building at the centre of the complex. We presumed that we wouldn't be allowed inside but wandered over just in case and were ushered inside by a monk. We stood in a corner and absorbed as the chanting, drum beating and occasional musical interlude played out around us. It was surreal and beautifully calming. I could have happily sat in there all day. The monks read from loose-leafed books with each sentence being the same number of syllables and chanted in a monotone manner. Every now and then the older monks would shake bells in time with the chanting and the three drum players with larger drums would hit them so hard that my insides vibrated! It was magical. The ceremony looked set to go on all afternoon and there was nowhere for us to sit so we had a look around the room, behind the Buddha and at some of the black hats, wrapped in black silk.
We found Gee outside polishing the car engine- no joke it looked brand new and the car is a fair few years old! We had chai and bananas and drove the 15 minutes to our hotel. In the afternoon we went for a walk in the surrounding area, through the steppe fields, stopping to investigate the odd bright green crop of newly sprouted barley or rice and tiny weird looking white insects. After a loop of the steppes we headed uphill on the opposite side of the road and came across a newly built monastery, as large as the one at Rumtek but still only made from concrete with no painting. The Buddha was already inside and covered with a plastic sheet to keep it clean. It was an experience. We had a wander along the road to the next little village when a little boy and girl asked Sam to take a photo of them so he obliged then we went back for dinner and sleep.