National Geographic : 1952 Dec
center perhaps 50 feet high. The outer building has three stories. The two upper floors are habitable; the lower serves as a gran ary and as sleeping quarters for travelers (page 727). Beams of the rooms and arches throughout the dzong are richly painted in blue, orange, and gold; the dragon, a familiar Bhutan ese symbol, is displayed everywhere. On walls and archways hang bows, quiv ers, polished iron helmets, swords, matchlocks, coats of mail, and flags. The outside of the fort is whitewashed; slits and win dows in the upper stories once served as loopholes in time of war. Making my headquarters in Ha Valley, I struck out frequently on tours, some times lasting 20 days, into the ranges and valleys of western Bhutan. Hunting for bharal, a sheeplike mountain animal, took me once to 16,700 feet near the Tibetan-Bhutan border. In this area, but at a lower altitude, the Ha people 719 A Herdsman Grooms a Prize Native Bull Bhutanese take pride in a superior breed of cattle, rich producers of cheese and butter. This animal belongs to Ha's governor. graze vast herds of yaks the animals that provide meat, tents, ropes, dairy products, and transportation for all the peoples of the upper Himalayas. In mid-September a message came to Ha Dzong foretelling the arrival of Ashi Kesang La Dorji, my friend of Oxford days. She was to become the bride of the heir apparent to the Bhutanese throne, the penlop, or gov ernor, of Paro Province. This electrifying news swept throughout the whole of Bhutan, for this would be the first royal wedding in three decades. Leaving her home, "Bhutan House" in Kalimpong, Ashi Kesang-La would journey through Sikkim and over the Natu La into Tibet. Accompanied by her mother and younger brother and 50-odd retainers, she was expected to reach Ha Dzong, her family's ancestral home, around the first of October. Here Comes the Bride Visiting dignitaries, lamas, headmen, and dancing girls swarmed into Ha. From Paro Valley came a detachment of the governor's own honor guards. Richly bedecked riding ponies and endless strings of mules churned dust from the valley trails. At stations along the bridal road villagers made feverish preparations; they laid incense fires and built stands that would offer food and drink to the passing cavalcade (p. 738). When at last Ashi Kesang-La Dorji came into the Ha Valley, she was obviously pleased by the tumultuous ovation. Then indeed did excitement reign. Tributes and celebration paid no heed to the clock. Even sleep seemed unimportant. The bride-to-be remained a week at Ha Dzong. Then, at sunrise one morning, the bridal party set out for Paro Valley. With an honor guard of more than 250 people, many astride gaily caparisoned ponies, it wound its way up the switchback turns of the Paro-Ha pass, looking for all the world like a lazy rainbow-hued snake. Mule trains of presents brought up the rear (pages 740-741). At the head of the procession a half-dozen lamas in scarlet robes took turns carrying a golden Buddha, a golden chorten (shrine), a book of Buddhist scriptures, and a heavy wedding seal, symbolical respectively of love, peace, auspiciousness, and good fortune, which proclaimed the forthcoming marriage. Song stresses and dancing girls followed, twirling and twisting to the accompaniment of tom toms, high-pitched trumpets, and flutes.