The National Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan style stupa also known as “jangchub chorten” is one of the cities tallest structures, an iconic landmark near the center of Thimphu. The memorial chorten is visible from almost all corners of Thimphu and it is one of the most interesting sights in Thimphu. The Chorten, held in great religious fervor, is circumambulated only in a clockwise direction, while reciting prayers and gently whirling the large red prayer wheels. This prayer pattern is the rule for any religious structures in Bhutan. It’s a stunning vision of pristine white against the backdrop of the brilliant sapphire sky.
The Chorten attracts many elderly Bhutanese on a daily basis who slowly circle the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at the shrine. Long beaded rosaries in their gnarled hands, they may spend the entire day here praying and socializing with the predominately elder locals. At the many prayer wheels, you might see ancient looking women and men sitting beneath the prayer wheels fingering their beads, praying, counting the repetition on the beads. They may be visiting or staying with their adult children and are dropped off for the day- a ritualistic life of praying for themselves and others. They may sit there all day on a cushion, in layers of clothing for warmth, it’s also a social outing as most of the people sitting and praying appear quite elderly. Although when asked their age, many are in their early to mid 60’s. they amble clockwise around the prayer wheel complex, gently pushing the worn wooden handles in a clockwise turn, making their rounds all day long, praying and counting their prayers on their beads or rosaries.
Thousands of people circumambulate this stupa every day. Mornings and evenings are particularly crowded. Young and old come here from dawn till dusk to pray and cleanse the sin they might have accumulated through various ways by way of bodily action and speech.
It was built in 1974 as a memorial to the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–72). The whitewashed chorten, with its sun-catching golden finial, is decorated with richly painted annexes facing the cardinal directions, and features elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the popular King. The main patron was the Druk Gyalpo’s mother, Phuntsho Choden. While the interior of the chorten is decorated with richly carved annexes facing the four directions, and contain mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the third king.The ground floor of the chorten is consecrated to the teachings of Vajrakilya. It has four shrines, each with different pictures of the king; with the eastern shrine housing a Buddha image.