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Bhutanese Altar    

Bhutanese Altar in Library

Directly beneath the magnificent tapestry, in the UTEP Library atrium, is an elaborately carved, 20’ x 9’ altar, brought to the campus in 2000 by UTEP President Diana Natalicio. Created in Bhutan, the altar was first displayed in the United States as part of an exhibit sponsored by the Asia Society of New York. Once the exhibit closed, the altar was put in storage in a Connecticut barn. Upon learning of its existence, President Natalicio arranged for the altar- then disassembled and in 245 parts - to be shipped to UTEP, where it was once again put in storage: this time, to await the arrival of Lopen Dago, a Buddhist monk sent by Bhutan to reconstruct the piece.

 

For nearly two months the monk worked by hand, using no electrical tools, to resemble the massive altar, made of blue pinewood and decorated with intricate paintings of mythological birds, serpents and flowers in rich reds and yellows: colors that have a deep religious significance in Bhutan. Each symbol represents a spiritual or temporal ideal. For example, the crane symbolizes good health; the dragon, love of learning. The altar’s many compartments – designed to hold the holy scriptures of Buddhism – are painted a deep sky blue to represent the heavens.

 

In Bhutan, an altar of the size would be placed in a temple and contain prayer books and religious statues.

 

“Because of our strong ties to Bhutan, we welcomed the opportunity to provide a home for this beautiful example of Bhutanese artisanship,” said President Natalicio.