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Where monks go shopping

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This week, you can see even more Buddhist monks on the streets of Thimphu than usual. The city is bathed in the saffron red color of their robes.

The Buddhist monks and nuns have come to town for the Tshechu, a four-day religious festival. It’s the highlight of the social year and always takes place in early October.

For the Thimphu shopkeepers, the Tsechu means good business. Many of them have put on special sales because of the festival.

I guess you could compare that to Christmas or Thanksgiving Day sales elsewhere – although the Thimphu shopping complexes can’t quite compare to Florida’s Sawgrass Mills Mall…

Special shops for special needs

Buddhist monk fashion doll

Buddhist monk fashion doll

The nice thing about shopping in Thimphu, however, is that there are no chain stores, only a lot of specialty shops.

Anything from places selling Bhutanese handicrafts to fabric stores specialising in the cloth the national costumes are made of.

And what’s even nicer is that there are even shops catering to the large community of Buddhist monks. So they, too, can join the holiday shopping frenzy.

The shop of Gasep Sangay Wangdi Tshongkhang, for instance, specialises in “readymade garments for monks”.

Inside the small shop, all you see is the saffron red of the monks’ robes. The shelves are piled high with monks’ shirts and undergarments.

Other shelves are stacked with the rectangular pieces of cloth the monks drape around their shoulders.

Gasep Sangay offers these pieces of fabric that are roughly the size of a beach towel in all shades of red – anything from the darkest burgundy to a pale tomato red.

If the fashion-conscious monk isn’t sure about which shade of maroon will suit him best, the two shopgirls will gladly help him pick out just the right color and cloth quality.

But hopefully they won’t jeopardize the monks’ vows of celibacy when they help them in and out of their robes.

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Written by Thorsten

October 11, 2008 at 2:48 pm

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