After graduation, after a divorce, after an election
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John Wehrheim is a photographer and filmmaker who lives in Lihue, Hawaii, where he spends much of his time trying to keep up with his five-year-old granddaughter, Ualani. He has two books of photographs, Taylor Camp and Bhutan: Hidden Lands of Happiness, both of which were made into films, and his work has won two Emmys. He took this month’s cover photo of Pem, a woman in Laya, Bhutan. Women in the region wear traditional hats called “pema chorten,” which means “lotus temple” — a symbol of a woman’s goddess nature.
Family with horse, Pazhi
Shaba, the husband, explained that the hat his wife, Pema, wears represents a “stupa” — a type of Buddhist temple. When a woman wears such a hat, “her head becomes a temple.”
Pema went on to say that Guru Rinpoche — the Buddhist mystic who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet — gave them their style of dress and told them to wear their hair long: “We cut our hair only once, at twelve years old. That is why it grows very straight and long and beautiful.”
Tango Monastery, Bhutan
Bhutan is the final outpost of the rapidly disappearing Tantric Buddhist culture that once guarded the Roof of the World. Tibet, Ladakh, Mustang, and Sikkim have all fallen to conquest or cultural and economic colonialism, while Bhutan — never conquered, never colonized — remains the last jewel in Buddhism’s Himalayan crown.