What is a stupa?

108 Stupas at Dochula Pass 108 Bhutanese Style Stupas at Dochula Pass 3150meters above sea level, Thimphu – Punakha national high way.

The Bhutanese word is Chorten, which means “the basis of offering”.

It is a symbol of enlightened mind, (the awakened mind, universal divinity) and the path to its realisation.

If you had to use just two words, the best definition I have seen is “Spiritual Monument”

The stupa represents the Buddha’s body, his speech and his mind, but most especially his mind and every part shows the path to Enlightenment

“The visual impact of the stupa on the observer brings a direct experience of inherent wakefulness and dignity. Stupas continue to be built because of their ability to liberate one simply upon seeing their structure” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Tibeta Style StupaEvery stupa contains at the very least a life tree and holy relics:
“When a great teacher passes away, his body is no more, but to indicate that his mind is dwelling forever in an unchanging way in the dharmakaya, one will erect a stupa as a symbol of the mind of the buddhas” – HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

The Nepali-Style Chorten is based on the classical stupa. On the Nepali chorten, sides of the tower are painted with pair of eyes, the all-seeing eye of Buddha. What appears to a nose is actually the Sanskrit character for the number one, symbolizing the absolute ness of Buddha. The large Chortenkora in Trashi Yangtse and Chendebji chorten near Trongsa are two examples of this style.

The Tibetan-Style Chorten has a shape similar to a stupa, but the rounded part flares outward instead of being a dome shape. National Memorial chorten in Thimphu is an excellent example of this style.

The Bhutanese Design comprises a square stone pillar with khemar near the top. The exact origin of this style is not known, but is believed to be a reduced form of the classical stupa, with only the pinnacle and square base. Some Bhutanese chorten have a ball and crescent representing the moon and the sun on the top.