Temples and Monasteries in Bhutan
- Buli Goemba
Location: Located in Buli village under Chumey Gewog in Bumthang, 15 minutes’ walk from Bumthang-Trongsa highway.
Background: Originally known as Phurling Goemba, it was built in the 14th century by Terton Dorji Lingpa, one of the five great tertons (treasure discoverer). The two-storey temple contains Tshepamey (Amitayus) on the top floor, Lord Buddha on the second floor and Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) on the ground floor besides Terton Dorji Lingpa’s hat, his statue, and a golden statue of Lord Buddha that belonged to the terton.
- Chakhar Lhakhang
Location: Located in Choekhor Gewog in Bumthang, 15 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: Chakhar Gyalpo or King Sindhu Raja is believed to have built a nine-storey iron castle (chakhar) on the spot where Chakhar Lhakhang stands today in the eighth century. Later, after the iron castle gave way and fell into ruins without a trace, Terton Dorji Lingpa built a temple on the spot and named it Dechen Phodrang. Guru Rinpoche first visited Bhutan at the invitation of Chakhar Gyalpo whose daughter Tashi Kheudron became his consort.
- Jampay Lhakhang
Location: Located in Chokhor Gewog in Bumthang, 10 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: Jampay Lhakhang is believed to be one of the two temples (the other is Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro) built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century AD in Bhutan among 108 temples that he built in one day to subdue a demoness that lay supine across the Himalayas. It’s believed to have been built on the left knee of the demoness. Besides the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from which the temple derives its name, the temple contains more than 100 statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first King of Bhutan in 1887.
- Konchusum Lhakhang
Location: Located in Chokhor valley, 10 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: The temple is believed to have been built by Terton Pema Lingpa over a big lake from which he discovered several treasures. The small statues of the three Buddhas (Buddhas of the past, present, and future) are believed to have flown to the site from Khini monastery in Lhuntse. The temple derives its name from the three Buddhas. Among other relics, the temple contains the centre statue of Vairocana, Avalokiteśvara, Jowo Jampa, Terton Pema Lingpa, and Longchen Rabjam.
- Kurje Lhakhang
Location: Located in Kurje in the Chokhor valley, 15 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: The site of the three temples has a body impression of Guru Rinpoche left behind after he meditated there and subdued evil spirits the chief of which was Shelging Karpo. Kurje means body impression. Guru Rinpoche visit Bumthang in 746 AD at the invitation of the local king, Chakhar Gyalpo.
The oldest temple was built in 1652 by Chogyal Migyur Tenpa, the first Choetse Chila. The second temple was built in 1900 by the first King Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck on the spot where Guru left his body imprint, and the third temple was built in the 1990s under the commanded of Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck. The first, second, and the third temple contains respectively the three Buddhas (the past, present, future), a 12-metre tall statue of Guru Rinpoche, and Khenlop Chosum (Guru Rinpoche, King Thrisong Duetsen, and Pandit Santarakshita).
- Tamzhing Lhakhang
Location: Located in Tamzhing, some 20 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: Built in 1505 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the temple served as his main seat. The relics contained in the statues in the temple are treasures discovered by the terton himself. The two-storey temple houses the images of Peling Tsokhor Sum (three principal deities of Peling tradition), the three Buddhas (Duesum Sangay), Guru Tshengyed (eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), a life-size statue of Terton Pema Lingpa. Among many relics crafted by the founder himself are the hat of Guru statue and a metal chain armour.
- Tag Rimochen Lhakhang
Location: Located in Tang Gewog in Bumthang.
Background: The history of the temple is associated with Guru Rinpoche who flew from Taktshang in Paro to Tang riding on a tigress to subdue a demoness. The legend has it that Guru Rinpoche shot the demoness from the nearby village when she was busy making khuli (buckwheat pancake). The cliff where Guru Rinpoche meditated has vertical markings that resemble the tiger’s stripes. Hence, the name Tag Rimochen (tag – tiger; rimo – stripes; chen – having).
- Tharpaling Lhakhang
Location: Located on a hillock, about an hour’s drive from the village of Gaytsa on the Bumthang-Trongsa highway.
Background: Tharpaling (meaning the land of liberation) is the place where Gyalwang Longchen Rabjampa spread his teachings and liberated many followers. Gyalwang Longchen Rabjampa visited Tharpaling in the 14th century and sanctified eight sacred places known as Ling Gyed (eight vast lands).
- Pagar Goemba
Location: Located in Pagar village which is connected by a feeder road to the Thimphu-Phuntsholing highway after crossing Chuzom.
Background: The goemba was founded by Geshe Kunga Gyeltshen in 1707. When he was staying in a small temple called Jangkhocheng above the present-day temple, a crow picked up his tingcha (a small cymbal) and dropped it at the site of the present-day temple. Taking it as a good omen, he built the monastery. The three-storied structure houses statues of guardian deities Gyap and Ngache, Jowo Jampa, a phurpa (ritual dagger) that emanated from a rock, and a set of kangyur.
- Tsamdrak Goemba
Location: Located in Chapcha village alongside the Thimphu-Phuntsholing highway, about 40 minutes’ drive from Thimphu town.
Background: Tshamdrak Goemba was founded by Lam Ngawang Drakpa, the great teacher of Gangtrul Tenzin Legpai Dondup. Long before him, a Tibetan master called Drigung Chopa Rinpoche prophesied that his son, Drubthob Sangay, would visit Bhutan to establish his lineage. From Dagala, where he meditated, he saw a cliff at the base of a hill resembling a pile of holy scriptures. He chose the place as his meditation place and it came to be known as Tshamdrak (tsham – meditation; drak – cliff). Besides scriptures, the goemba houses 100 drums and a slab of stone (discovered as treasures).
- Shathong Lhakhang
Location: Located on a ridge above Dagana Dzong.
Background: The temple was founded by Drubthob Shawa Ripa, a great Buddhist mastered believed to have lived for 900 years. He established meditation centre where the temple stands today. While meditating at the place, Drubthob Shawa Ripa is believed to have seen two stags drinking water from the lake of Karling Zingkha. Hence, the place came to be known as Shathong (the place from where stags were seen).
- Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple)
Location: Located in the tiny village of Damchoe at Haa.
Background: According to a prophecy, the temple is one of the 108 temples built by King Songtsen Gampo during the 7th century. The white pigeon released by King Songtsen Gampo landed at the place where the temple was built, so it got the name Lhakhang Karpo. It was built mainly to protect the southern entrance of Haa valley. The Lhakhang houses the main seat of Haa’s Guardian Ap Chungdu. History says Ap Chungdu himself installed the Statue of Tshepamey (Amitayus).
- Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple)
Location: It is located in Damchu village under Isu Gewog.
Background: It is also one of the two temples built in Bhutan amongst 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. The legend says that the temple was built at the site where a black pigeon picious location. So, the temple got its name Lhakhang Nakpo (Black temple). It is the main seat of local deity Dado Chen. It also houses a relic of Choelong Trulsum, a statue of Jowo Jampa and Guru Rinpoche each.
- Tagchu Goemba
Location: It is located 9 km away from Lhakhang Karpo in Lungsekha Village under Isu Gewog, Haa.
Background: The temple was instituted by Dali Lam Sangay Jamtsho in the beginning of the 20th century. Some distance from the temple there is a cave which resembles the tiger (tag) from where water (chu) springs. Hence, the temple was named Tagchu Goemba. The main relic in the temple is a statue of Lord Buddha besides a statue of Tsepame, Guru Rinpoche, Dorji Chang, Chenrezig, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Tandin, and sets of Kanjur and Tenjur.
- Dungkar Naktshang
Location: It is located 40 km away from Lhuntse proper.
Background: It is the seat of Bhutan’s nobility family Dungkar Choje and the ancestors of the kings of Bhutan. Some 200 metres south is the old Naktshang (manor house), the ancestral home of the Wangchuck Dynasty. The three-storey by First King Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck and renovated recently by the district administration of Lhuntse. The fortress-like house contains the statue of Ugyen Yabyum (Guru and his consort).
- Jangchubling Lhakhang
Location: The temple is located alongside feeder road to Dungkar under Gangzur Gewog.
Background: The temple was founded by Choje Pekar Jamtsho from Paro when he built a small shrine and two choetens. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the daughter of Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck who became a nun, sponsored the establishment of a which could house 150 monks. Under the supervision of Sixteenth Karmapa, Ashi Wangmo rebuilt the present temple and named it Dargay Choling Lhakhang.
- Khinyel Lhakhang
Location: It is located in Metsho Gewog.
Background: The history of this temple is vague, but legends say that the foundation for this temple and the first Buddhist temple in Tibet was laid on the same day in 779 AD. Local people say that the temple was built at the place where a dog was found sleeping (khinyel). With the visit of Terton Pema Lingpa after 700 years, he found the temple on the verge of collapse, so he prophesied that dakinis would renovate it. He also sculpted many statues for the temple. The temple houses a statue built by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century, Lord Buddha and Guru Rinpoche as zung (inner relics). The main deity of the temple is Drak Tsen.
- Dramitse Lhakhang
Location: It is located approximately 19 km drive from the Trashigang-Mongar highway.
Background: The temple was founded by the granddaughter of Terton Pema Lingpa, the great nun Ani Choten Zangmo in the 16th century. It was prophesied that she would hear the sound of a conch when she reached the finest place. Accordingly, she built a small temple south of the present-day temple and named it Dramitse (The Peak Without Enemies). The temple today acts as one of the biggest spiritual centres for Peling Tradition in the eastern Bhutan. The main relic of the temple is the embalmed body of Ani Choten Zangmo. It also houses a skull bearing the impression “Om Aa Hum”.
- Chang Pelri Lhakhang
Location: Located atop a hill in Bondey village, some 20 minutes’ drive from Bondey town.
Background: The temple was founded by Lam Nagi Rinchen from Neynyingpa School. Later it came under Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It was renovated by Paro Penlop Tshering Penjore and recently rebuilt by Lam Wangdue. The main relic in the temple is Jigjed (the five ox-headed deities with 16 hands), the temple also houses a statue of the founder.
- Taktsang Monastery
Location: Located 800 metres above sea level on the face of a rocky cliff, about one and a half hours’ trek from the road point.
Background: Taktshang is perhaps the most famous monastery in the country. The monastery was named Taktshang after Guru Rinpoche flew there from Kurtoe Singay Dzong riding a tigress in the form of Guru Dorji Drolo. Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay began the construction of the monastery in 1692 and completed it in 1694. The monastery houses many temples that contain sacred statues of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Tshepame Yabyum and Bone relic of Pelgi Singay.
- Kichu Lhakhang
Location: It is some 10 minutes’ drive from Paro town.
Background: The temple is one of the two among 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century to subdue a demon that lay supine across Tibet and Bhutan. The temple contains sacred relics dating back to the 7th century like a statue of Lord Buddha and four statues of Chagtong Chentong. It also contains the statues of Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Dolma Kukuli (a manifestation of Tara), Zhabdrung, the bone relic of his Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
- Dungtse Lhakhang
Location: Located in Jangsa village right next to Tshogdu town.
Background: The temple dates back to the time of Tibetan saint, Drubthob Thangtong Gyalpo, in the 14th century. It was built by his sons, six disciples and the people of the village mainly to protect the people in the Paro valley afflicted by leprosy. The three-storey temple contains relics of the founder and statues of Chenrezig, Je Khenpo Lam Gyalwang Je, Zhabdrung, Chana Dorji, Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, Yidam Tandin Yabyum, Milarepa, Jowo Jampa, Dorji Chang, and Tshepame.
- Sangchokhor Dzong
Location: The dzong is about 30 minutes’ drive from Tshongdu town.
Background: Also known as Sangchen Chokhor, the two-storey dzong was built in 1763 by the Second Sungtrul Chogley Shacha Tenzin. After a fire destroyed it in 1932, it was rebuilt by Rinpung Zimpon Tandin and disciple of the Sungtrul. The dzong contains statues of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Sungtruls on the first floor and statues of Guru Rinpoche, Jampa Gonpo, and Chenrezig on the ground floor.
- Tachok Lhakhang
Location: Located below the Thimphu-Paro highway across the Pachu river near Isuna village.
Background: Drubthob Thangtong Gyalpo envisioned the construction of the temple when he meditated at the site for seven days. Drubthob is believed to have come to Bhutan at the request of Ap Chundu and Jowodrakey, the deities of Haa and Paro. Tachok Lhakhang was first built by Dewa Zangpo who became one of the seven disciples of Thangtong Gyalpo. The temple houses the statues of Lord Shakyamuni, Guru Rinpoche, and Chenrezig, among others, and the walking staff of Drubthob Thangtong Gyalpo and Lam Jampel Loday.
- Neyphu Goemba
Location: 20 km from Shaba along paved a road.
Background: The goemba was established by Yongdzin Ngawang Drakpa. The goemba was named Neyphu because the ridge where the goemba is located looks like Guru Rinpoche’s shrine. The temple houses the statue of Guru Rinpoche.
- Kila Goemba
Location: Located below Chelela on the Paro-Haa highway, exactly 27 km from Bongdey and an hour’s walk from the road.
Background: The goemba is believed to have been established by Drubthob Paw Dorji in the 9th rabjung (sexogenery cycle). Later it was renovated and enlarged into a two-storey by the fourth chief abbot Je Damchoe Pekar. It was rebuilt by the 25th chief abbot Je Sherab Gyeltshen after it was completely burnt down. The goemba contains a statue of Chuchizhey (Avalokitesvara) sculpted by Je Sherab Gyeltshen and two stupas – one containing a tooth of Je Sherab Gyeltshen and the other containing the tooth of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu.
- Kunzang Choling
Location: Located on Dongkala pass connected by a dirt road.
Background: The temple was founded by Terton Dorji Jonpa, the reincarnation of Terton Tshering Dorji who had meditated and propagated dharma from the place. The temple’s inner chapel is dedicated to the guardian deity of the place. It houses a sacred urn and several other relics.
- Kheri Goemba
Location: 10 minutes’ uphill trek from Kheri Town, five kilometres before reaching Pemagatshel town.
Background: Goemba was founded by Khedrup Kuenga Wangpo in the late 15th century on a hillock near a lake where he meditated for seven days. With the instruction given by the saint, people immediately built the temple on the lake. It is believed that the lake still exists under the temple. The temple contains the statues of Lord Buddha, Chenrezig, Phurba, Guru Pema Jungney, and Zhabdrung Rinpoche.
- Yongla Pelri Goemba
Location: Located atop a hill on the Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang highway.
Background: The goemba was founded by Khedrup Jigme Kundrol in 1736. While studying in Tibet, his master Terton Jigme Lingpa prophesied that his seat would be in Mon. Subsequently, he was guided by Khandro Dechen Gyalyum to Yongla. Upon reaching Yongla, he asked the spirit if the place was indeed the one foretold by his master. The spirit replied, “yes, yes” (yong yong). The place, therefore, came to be known as Yongla. The temple houses Guru Dorji Drolo, kudung choeten of the founder, and two statues of the local deities.
- Khemae Lhakhang
Location: Located on a hillock in Lobesa.
Background: The temple was built in 1499 by Lam Ngawang Chogyal, the cousin of Lam Drukpa Kunley, on the spot where the latter subdued a demoness who was running away in the form of a dog. Lam Drukpa Kunley buried the demoness and said there was no dog now (khe – dog; mae – no). Hence, the temple came to be known as the “temple of no dog”. The temple contains the bow and arrows of Lam Drukpa Kunley and a phallus to bless the visitor.
- Choeten Nyingpo
Location: Located approximately 8 km from the main road in Kabesa.
Background: The temple was built by the fourth reincarnation of Lam Thripa (Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye), Chogtrul Jigme Singay. The lhakhang was built at the site where Lam Drukpa Kunley, while passing by Jiligang, threw a partially burnt piece of wood which grew into a tree. The temple contains the statues of Dorji Chang, Kuntu Zangpo, Tempa Nyima, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Jetsun Milarepa, and Drukpa Kunley.
- Khamsum Yuley Namgyal Choeten
Location: Located in Kabesa Gewog, about 7 km drive from Punakha town.
Background: The choeten was built with the sponsorship of her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck between 1992 and 1999 under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Lam Sonam Zangpo. The three-storey choeten contains the images of Dorji Phurba on the ground floor, Khrowo Khamsum Namgyal on the first floor, and Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa on the second floor.
- Neypa Goemba
Location: Located 10 km from Shengana village.
Background: The goemba was founded in the 14th century by Lam Thinley Rabyang, a disciple of Lam Kunga Zangpo. The three-storey goemba houses a sacred mask of Raksha (Ox-head mask) and the goenkhang (inner sanctum) of Rongkor, the local deity, and deity Gyem Anggura. The second floor contains the statues of Guru Rinpoche, Chugchizhey, and Tshepamey. The ground floor is dedicated to Zhabdrung Rinpoche and Chenrezig.
- Talo Sangacholing
Location: Located at Talo Goemba.
Background: The site was founded by Chogtrul Jigme Singye, the fourth reincarnation of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1763. The temple complex was later renovated by several reincarnations of Zhabdrung Rinpoche and it served as their living quarters. The temple houses a goenkhang and the residence of the abbot. Neten Chudru Lhakhang is one of the many temples of Talo Sangacholing.
- Changangkha Lhakhang
Location: Located in Changangkha overlooking the heart of Thimphu city.
Background: The temple was built by Nyima in the 12th century at the site chosen by his father, Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. The temple houses, among others, a copper statue of Tandin (Hayagriva), Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his consort Khandro Sonam Pelden. This temple is considered the guardian of all children born in the Thimphu valley.
- Cheri Monastery
Location: Located in the north of Thimphu valley, half an hour’s drive to Dodena and forty-five minutes’ walk from the road end.
Background: The monastery was founded by the founder of the Bhutanese nation state, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is among the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan blessed by many eminent saints. It consists of four temples – Kudung Lhakhang, Jokhang (temple of Jowo), Namsey Lhakhang , and Duethrul Lhakhang. The main relic of the temple is a choeten the remains of Zhabdrung’s father, Tenpi Nyima, and a Zhabdrung’s statue sculpted by Zhabdrung himself.
- Dechen Phodrang Monastery
Location: Located on a hillock above Hejo village.
Background: The historical monastery was built by Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa, one of Lam Khanga (five groups of lams) in 1216. It was earlier called Donyon Dzong. Later, the monastery came under the control of Zhabdrung Rinpoche who renamed it as Tashicho Dzong and made it the seat of the central monastic body. After a fire destroyed it in 1772, it was rebuilt as the present-day Tashicho Dzong. The monastery that was rebuilt at the same site was named Dechen Phodrang. The two-storey monastery contains the statues of Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Lord Buddha flanked by Neten Chudru, and a goenkhang housing Goem Chamdrel Sum (Mahakala, Mahakali, and Raven Deity).
- Dechenphu Lhakhang
Location: Located in the north of Thimphu city, about 10 kilometres’ drive from Thimphu city.
Background: The temple was built by Dampa, the eldest son of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. Later, the son of Dampa, Damtrul Loden Gyalpo built the present structure of the neykhang (deity’s temple) and installed the statue of the guardian deity of the Thimphu valley, Gaynyen Jagpa Milen. Today, the temple is mostly associated with the guardian deity.
- Dodeydra Lhakhang
Location: Located on the lap of a mountain north of Thimphu, around two hours’ uphill walk from Samtenling.
Background: The 13th Je Khenpo Yonten Thaye, who was considered the reincarnation of Chana Dorji, built the temple in 1779. When he was Tshenye Lopen, he dreamt the whole mountain as a statue of Dorji Yudenma. After his retirement, he meditated in Bodhgaya but did not find it fulfilling. Upon praying to Jetsun Milarepa, he dreamt of himself meditating in a small cave at the present site of the lhakhang. So, he built the temple against the cliff which is believed to contain Dodey Kezang scriptures. The two-storey lhakhang contains the statues of the Buddhas of the past, present and future besides the statues of Je Yonten Thaye, Zhabdrung Jigme Drakpa, Gyalwa Shacha, and Chagtong Chentong.
- National Memorial Choeten
Location: Located in the heart of Thimphu city.
Background: It was built in 1974 by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Phuntsho Choden in memory of her son, Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. The three-storey choeten houses several relics such as Phurba Lhatshog, Kagay, Khrowo Nampur Gyalwa, Guru Tshengye, and Khenlop Chesum. The choeten is today the spiritual nerve centre of the city.
- Pangri Zampa
Location: Located in Dechencholing, about 8 km north of Thimphu city.
Background: The temple was built in 1529 by Lam Ngawang Chogyal and his son. It was originally named Druk Phodrangding. However, today it is commonly known as Pangri Zampa Lhakhang. When Zhabdrung Rinpoche brought Lam Khanga under his control, they fled their establishment right above the temple. Thereafter, the place came to be known as Pangri (pang – leave behind; ri – hill) Zampa (bridge). The temple houses the statues of Yabsey Sum (the trio of father and sons) – Tenpi Nyima, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, and Ngawang Draba. The temple also houses a statue of guardian deity Tshomem. The temple also houses the College of Astrology.
- Phajoding Goemba
Location: Located high in the mountains above Thimphu, about four hours’ walk for Motithang.
Background: Guru Rinpoche prophesied to Phajo Drugom Zhigpo that he would have 12 meditation centres comprising four dzongs, four cliffs, and four caves. Phajoding was one of the caves. As per the prophecy, when Phajo was meditating in a cave called Puemo Drakar, he saw a figure of Chenrezig, also known as Thuje Chenpo (Great Compassionate One). So, he renamed the place as Thuje Drak. The place later came to be known as Phajoding in honour of Phajo Drugom Zhigpo. Among the many temples built by saints later is the one built by the ninth Chief Abbot Shakya Rinchen and the 13th Desi Chogyel Sherab Wangchuk.
- Tango Monastery
Location: Located north of Thimphu opposite Cheri Monastery, approximately 14 km drive from Thimphu and 40 minutes’ walk from the road point.
Background: The monastery’s name honours Phajo Drugom Zhigpo’s meeting with the horse-headed deity Tandin (Hayagriva) who prophesied that Phajo would help the teachings of Drukpa Kagyu flourish in Bhutan. The monastery was visited by many great masters and it contains many sacred relics. The monastery today houses the College of Buddhist Studies.
- Thadrak Goemba
Location: It is about one and a half hours’ walk from Semtokha Dzong.
Background: As prophesied by Guru Rinpoche, Lam Sangay Jamtsho, a disciple of Tsang Khyentse Jamyang Palden Jamtsho, built the monastery in 1669 on the mountain that resembles phurba (ritual dagger). Lam Sangay Jamtsho built the first Phurpa Kyilkhor (Mandala of Phurpa) of Bhutan and named the place Gaden Nyipa. Today, it is known as Naktshang Goemba. The reincarnation of Lam Sangay Jamtsho, Lam Tsula Jamtsho, built a larger temple near the small one and named it Thadrak Goemba. Besides Phurpa Kyilkhor, the temple houses many important relics.
- Wangditse Dzong
Location: Located on a ridge above Tashicho Dzong, about 30 minutes’ walk from Dechen Phodrang.
Background: The dzong was built by Lam Tenzin Dondup in 1567. The five-storey dzong housed the administrative centre of Desi. Later, when Desi’s office was shifted to Tashicho Dzong 1641, the dzong fell into ruins. Later, Thimphu Dzongpon Kunzang Thinley renovated the dzong into a single-storey temple. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche started the first monastic body in that temple. The main relic of the temple is the statue of Jowo Shakyamuni.
- Chador Lhakhang
Location: Located above Bartsham village, two hours’ drive from Trashigang Town.
Background: The origin of the temple is not clear, but oral sources say it was built by Trongsa Dronyer Ugyen Dorji. The two-storied temple was renovated by Lam Pema Wangchen in 9985. The temple derives its name from its main relic Chana Dorji or Chador (Vajrapani). The temple also houses the statue of Gonpo Maning (an emanation of Mahakala).
- Dungkar Choling Lhakhang
Location: Located in Bidung village.
Background: The temple was founded by Kunga Wangpo, one of the sons of Terton Pema Lingpa. It was Kunga Wangpo’s wish that his mortal remains be taken to Bidung. Today, the temple houses the sacred remains of Kunga Wangpo interred in a statue of Guru Rinpoche. Besides the statue of Guru Rinpoche, the enlarged temple contains statues of Pema Lingpa, a small terma statue of Lord Buddha, and dilbu (ritual bell) used by Kunga Wangpo.
- Guru Goemba
Location: Located on a ridge overlooking the village of Sakteng, a day’s trek from Phongmey village.
Background: The name of the founder is not known, verbally it is said that the shrine was built by the re-incarnated lam of lam Tenpai Droma. Presently, goemba is owned by a private individual and houses a shedra of 30 monks. The Temple has a statue of Jowo as a main relic and Gonkhang dedicated to guardian deity Penden lhamo.
- Namdrup Choling Lhakhang
Location: Located in Radhi village.
Background: The temple is believed to have been built by Ama Jomo Remati during her visit to Bhutan. She built a small temple at the site where the present temple stands. Later in the 20th century, Trongsa Dronyer Ugyen Dorji enlarged it. Among the many sacred relics, most of them installed by the founder, the temple contains are a bone rosary, a belt of Ama Jomo, a terma statue of Lord Buddha, a small horn of the rhino, statues of Ama Jomo and Meme Dangling in the goengkhang (inner sanctum).
- Rangjung Woesel Choling Goemba
Location: Located in Rangjung town.
Background: The goemba was founded by Dungse Garab Rinpoche in 1989. It has a unique architecture and it is said to be a replica of Bod Mendrupling. The goemba houses gomdey (monastic school). It is the main seat of Dungse Garab Rinpoche.
- Samten Choling Lhakhang
Location: Located in the Merak valley.
Background: Oral sources say that a Tibetan monk by the name Sumba came on a pilgrimage to Bhutan with a statue of Chugchizhey. He left the statue behind in the valley and advised the people to built a temple for it. The temple subsequently built is known for its unique shape and houses the wooden phallus of Ama Jomo’s horse. Apart from it, the shrine room contains sacred rock imprints left by Aum Jomo, the guardian deity of Merak, the saddle of Aum Jomo’s horse, and imprints of deity Trashi Yoebar’s phallus.
- Thromang Lhakhang
Location: Located in Chaling village, an hour’s drive from Rangjung town.
Background: The temple was originally built by a woman of the village, Abi Tsirmo, to house a religious text of Ama Jomo. The small temple was later renovated and enlarged by the residents of Chaling village in around 1967. The text written in gold was, however, lost in 1982. Besides, the statues of Zambala and Chenrezig (both considered terma), the temple contains a set of Bum (hundred thousand words of Prajnaparamita).
- Ugyen Donga Choling Goemba
Location: Located in Yonphula under Kanglung Gewog.
Background: It the temple was built in 1941 under the initiative of Trashigang Dzongpon Thinley Tobgay, popularly known as Sey Dopola. The main relic of the goemba is a statue of Jowo Shakyamuni which is said to be similar to Jowo in Potala Palace, a statue of Guru Rinpoche, Dorji Drolo, Phurba, Kanjur and Tenjur, and a statue of Togden Karpo.
- Woming Ugyen Choling Lhakhang
Location: Located in Phongmey village.
Background: Built in 1890 by one Phub Tshering, the temple is known to have been renovated two times. It houses a statue each of Chagtong Chentong, Dorji Chang, Dolma, and Lord Buddha.
- Yonphu Lhakhang
Location: Located in the heart of Yonphula village.
Background: Oral sources say that the people of Yonphula mistreated a visiting lam from Tibet. As a result, misfortune befell the village. Later, realising their mistake, the village chieftain, on behalf of the village, offered to the lam a plot of land. Thus, the village came to be known as Yonphula (yon – offering made for religious service; phul – offer; la – hill). Besides the statues of Garab Dorji, Tshepame, Dorji Sempa, Dolma, a lado (soul stone) of Dorji Phagmo, the temple houses an antique thangka (large scroll of painting) of Gonpo Maning Nagpo.
- Kupijigtsam Lhakhang
Location: Located atop a hillock in Yangnyer village.
Background: Terton Pema Lingpa’s son Sangdag founded the temple in the 15th century. When Sangdag reached the village of Yangnyer, a cuckoo (kupi in many eastern languages) emerged from the bushes and broke into a full-throated song. Considering it as a good omen, Sangdag built a temple in the village and named it Kupijigtsam Lhakhang (the temple of singing cuckoo). The temple contains the Kudung Choeten (bone relic stupa) of the founder, a statue of Sangdag, a kadam choeten and termas besides many statues.
- Rigsum Goemba
Location: Four hours’ trek from Tashiyangtse town.
Background: The goemba was founded by Lam Tshering Jamtsho, a disciple of Je Shakya Rinchen, the ninth Je Khenpo of Bhutan. On his way to Rigsum Goemba, he discovered a cave bearing imprints of Rigsum Gonpo (Jampelyang, Chana Dorji, Chenrezig). Among the relics is the statue of Jowo that spoke believed to have been sculpted by famous sculptor Pentsa Dewa from Nepal.
- Bemji Choeje Naktshang
Location: Located atop a hillock in Nubi Gewog, an hour’s drive from Bjizam.
Background: It is the naktshang (manor house) of Bemji’s noble family who descended from Terton Pema Lingpa, Bemji Choje. Bemji Naktshang has a statue of Lord Buddha as the main relic flanked by the statues of Zhabdrung Rinpoche and Chenrezig.
- Chakharzur Lhakhang
Location: Located in Drakteng Gewog, 27 km from the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway.
Background: The temple was founded by Zhabdrung Rinpoche’s father, Yab Tenpi Nyima in the 16th century. Tenpi Nyima had a vision of Neten Chudruk (16 arhats) while journeying across Rukubji, Chendebji, and Tangsibji who directed him to build a temple in one day. The temple is believed to have been built in one day by holding the setting sun on a rock. The temple houses a chodril (ritual bell) and the statues of Dolma (Tara), Tsangpa Gyarey, Guru Rinpoche, Jowo Jampa, and the founder.
- Drala Goemba
Location: Located in Tshangkha Gewog, about two hours’ walk from the road head at Chendebji.
Background: The goemba was founded by Tshulthrim Namgyal, a follower of Terton Dorji Lingpa who propagated the teachings of Lama Kadue and Dzogchen Tawa Lyongyang in the 14th century. The main relic of the monastery is the statue of Guru Pema Jungney (one of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche).
- Sherling Lhakhang
Location: Located in Langthel Gewog, around four hours’ uphill walk from the Trongsa-Zhemgang Highway.
Background: The temple was founded by Kunkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 14th century. The main relics of the temple are the statues of the Buddhas of the past, present and future, and the statues of Chana Dorji and Zambala (God of wealth). The temple also houses a statue of Kunkhen Longchen Rabjam. There are many sacred sites around the temple.
- Sinpho Guru Lhakhang
Location: Located in Nubi Gewog.
Background: The site where the temple stands had been infested by ogres (sinpho) until Guru Rinpoche came and subdued the ogres. Guru left his body imprint on a rock at the site near which Lopen Palbar later built a temple. The main relics of the temple include the statues of Guru Rinpoche and his eight manifestations along with these two consorts (Khandro Mendarawa and Khandro Yeshey Tshogyal).
- Taktsherla Choje Lhakhang
Location: Located in Langthel Gewog, some 30 minutes’ uphill walk from Womey.
Background: The temple was founded by Lam Gyalse Kuenga Gyeltshen, the son of the spiritual reincarnation of Terton Pema Lingpa, Dawa, in the 16th century. The lam is believed to have built the temple at the spot where he found his lost statue of Yidam Tandin (Hayagriva) atop a cypress tree. Besides the kudung (sacred remains) of the founder, the temple houses the statues of Guru Nangsa Zilnon and his consorts, Chenrezig, Tsepamey, Lord Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Tara.
- Chungney Goemba
Location: Located in Phangyul Gewog, 20 km from Chuzomsa.
Background: Chungney Goemba was founded by Thinley Pelbar, a disciple of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1655. Chungney Goemba and Dolung Goemba in Khotokha were believed to have been built at the same time. Chungney Goemba was the winter seat of Chief Abbot of Dolong Goemba. Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal built the temple of 21 Taras (Drolma Nishu Tsachi) as a mark of repentance for the people killed in a war between him and his opponents. In 1870, after he became Druk Desi, he renovated the temple.
- Dargay Goemba
Location: Located in Chungsegang, 10 km from Chuzomsa.
Background: The temple was built at the place where Lam Drukpa Kunley and Ashi Genzo met in the 15th century. Thereafter, Lam Ngawang Drakpa, the son of Lam Ngawang Chogyal, started a drupdey (meditation centre) and named it Tanyel Lhakhang (temple where horses slept). Later, it was renamed Druk Dargaygang. During the time of the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgay, the temple was enlarged and many relics installed such as the statue of Lam Drukpa Kunley.
- Dolung Goemba
Location: Located above Rinchenling Shedra at Khotokha, around half a day’s walk from Chuzomsa.
Background: The goemba was founded by the second Je Khenpo Sonam Yoezer. On his visit to the place, he found a rock with a part of it resembling a handle. Considering it an auspicious omen, he established the goemba. Dolung literally means stone handle (do – stone; lung – handle). The special relic of this temple is a mask of raksha (Ox-head mask).
- Gangteng Sangacholing Goemba
Location: The goemba is located on a hillock overlooking the wide valley of Phobjikha, around two hours’ drive from Wangdi Phodrang town.
Background: The temple was founded in 1613 by Pema Thinley, the grandson of Pema Lingpa and the first Gangteng Trulku. The name of the monastery was derived from its location atop (teng) and hill (gang). The monastery is today among the biggest in the country and houses a shedra (Monastic college).
- Kubum Lhakhang
Location: Located a few kilometres away from Gangteng Goemba.
Background: Kubum (one hundred thousand statues) Goemba was established by Zhabdrung Tshenden Dulwa, a Bon master from Tibet, in the 13th century. The old temple fell into ruins. The new temple, which contains all the relics from the old temple, was built by the forefathers of Dasho Passing. The temple contains the statues of the Buddha of the past, present and future, 108 volumes of sutras, and a gonkhang dedicated to the local guardian deity, Sid Pai Gyalmo.
- Nyinzergang Lhakhang
Location: Located on top of a hill, overlooking the Wangdi town.
Background: The people of Nyinzergang were once afflicted by epilepsy caused by evil spirits. Terton Wugpa Lingpa visited Nyinzergang village in the 13th century and subdued the evil spirit causing epilepsy and built a temple called Gayden Choling. The temple was later taken over by Nyinzer Lam. Kuenri and Tsow Ngap Cham (mask dances depicting the stage after death and before birth) are performed only in this temple. The main relic in the temple is za (planetary deity).
- Buli Khelam Lhakhang
Location: Located in Buli village, an hour’s drive from Zhemgang Dzong.
Background: The temple was founded by Lam Shacha Yoezer, the reincarnation of Lam Zhang from Tibet, who had built a small monastery at the site where Zhemgang Dzong stands. The main relics in the temple are the statues of Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Lam Zhang, and Lam Shacha Yoezer.
- Tagma Lhakhang
Location: Located in Tagma village under Trong Gewog.
Background: The temple was built to house the dead body of Terton Pema Lingpa to keep his death a secret. The temple houses a Jangchub Choeten (stupa built to commemorate Lord Buddha’s enlightenment) and the statues of Chana Dorji, Dorji Sempa, Guru Rinpoche, Buddha Shakyamuni, and Jampelyang.
- Wamling Lhakhang
Location: Located in Wamling village, one and a half days’ walk from the nearest motor road.
Background: Oral sources say that it was built in 1920 but the founder is unknown. Wamling is described as a sacred site of Omai Ling (Land of Milk). The temple houses Rigsum Gonpo (Chenrezig, Jampelyang, and Chana Dorji).
The sacred Places (Neys)
- Mebar Tsho
Location: Located in a gorge on the way to Tang, some 30 minutes’ drive from Chamkhar town.
Background: Mebar Tsho (meaning Burning Lake) is the sacred lake from where renowned Terton Pema Lingpa discovered treasures as directed by Guru Rinpoche. Terton jumped into the lake with a burning butter lamp in his hand. He miraculously emerged from the lake after some time with a chest and a scroll of paper, the butter lamp still burning. Therefore, the lake came to be known as Mebar Tsho.
- Kunzang Drak
Location: Located on the face of a cliff in the Tang area of Bumthang, some 90 minutes’ trek from the feeder road that connects Tang to Chamkhar town.
Background: The site was founded by Terton Pema Lingpa in the 15th century AD. Kunzang Drak was believed to have been visited by Guru Rinpoche riding a tigress. We can see hand and foot impressions of Guru Rinpoche and the tigress on the rock. Main relics of the temple include statues of Sangay Yoepamed (Amitayus), Chenrezig (Avalokiteśvara), Guru Nangsi Zilnon, Namkhai Nyingpo, and a rock bearing Terton Pema Lingpa’s footprint. The temple complex has many drupchu (holy springs) believed to have been created by Guru Rinpoche and Terton Pema Lingpa.
- Do Namkhai Kaw
Location: Located in Dagana, across the valley facing Daga Trashiyangtse Dzong.
Background: Do Namkhai Kaw or Stone Pillar of the Sky is a 12-metre tall stone pillar that is believed to have spoken during the construction of Dagana Dzong – that the dzong would collapse if it was built taller than the pillar. Do Namkhai Kaw is believed to be at the same height as the golden pinnacle of the dzong.
- Do Kalpai Gyenthey
Location: Located seven kilometres away from Do Namkhai Kaw.
Background: Do Kelpai Gyenthey is considered the sister stone of Do Namkhai Kaw. As the name suggests, it has five steps. One of the steps is not visible as it has been buried. Local people believe that when the remaining four steps sink underground, the present aeon will end.
- Do Rangtha (Millstone)
Location: It is about half an hour’s walk from the road near Do Kalpai Gyenthey.
Background: The locals say that at the site of this very rock, Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon that used to eat travellers crossing this small pass. The rock is in the shape of a millstone, hence the name Do Rangtha.
- Pokhari (Lake)
Location: The Lake is in Tsangkha Gewog, about four hours’ walk from either Drujeygang or Sunkosh.
Background: According to a legend, the lake migrated from Tsang in Tibet along with the people who initially came from Tibet and whose descendants still live there. It is about three acres wide and considered holy.
- Ma Deo (Cave)
Location: Located in Gopini village, about three hours’ walk from Dagapela.
Background: Located near Rangchu stream, the cave is rich in calcium. Local Hindus believe that it is Lord Shiva’s cave since the columns of rock hanging in the cave and rising from the floor of the cave resemble Lord Shiva’s phallus. Locals come once a year to offer prayers and free doves that have been captured as an act of compassion.
- Baeyul Khenpajong
Location: Located in Kurtoe, Lhuntse.
Background: Khenpajong is the place blessed by Guru Rinpoche as a baeyul (sacred hidden land). Guru Rinpoche is believed to have subdued Khikha Rathoe, an evil Tibetan prince with the mouth of a dog and the skull of a goat living in exile. Guru Rinpoche built a large wooden bird and sent it flying to Bumthang with Khikha Rathoe and his entire court inside it.
- Singye Dzong
Location: Located at 3,000 metres above sea level, three days’ walk from Lhuntse Dzong.
Background: Singye Dzong is one of the most sacred places in Bhutan associated with Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche visited the place and blessed it when he subdued Khikha Rathoe, a son of Tibetan king Thrisong Detsen living in exile in Khenpalung. It is one of the eight great solitary places blessed by Guru Rinpoche.
- Aja Ney
Location: It is 3,500 meters above sea level. This sacred place is located in Ngatshang Gewog, three days’ walking distance from Mongar Dzong.
Background: According to religious history, Aja Ney was discovered by Lam Karma Jamyang, a disciple of Ninth Karmapa. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche spent three months to bless the Ney as a hidden land to be discovered in the future. The sacred hidden place got its name from the hundred inscriptions of letter “ཨ” in the inner walls of the cave. Of the many sacred spots, Ugyen Druphu is of similar significance as Paro Taktshang and Kurje Lhakhang. It also consists of three different places of interest — Tsekor (the outer circle), Nangkor (the inner circle) and Rongkor (the bottom circle).
Location: Perched on a hilltop above Shaba village, about an hour’s walk from the highway or a few minutes’ walk from a mud road going to Dongkarla.
Background: Guru Rinpoche is believed to have visited the site and dug some space into the cliff to mediate. The rocks that came out of the cliff can be seen the split and attached to the cliff. The cliff was, therefore, name Drakap (split cliff). Has Vajrayana Kilkhor and is believed to be the residence of Rigsum Gonpo, 21 Taras, and 1,000 Buddhas. The cliff also houses many other sacred treasures. The temple built against the cliff contains the statues of Guru Pema Jungney, Guru Nangsi Zilnon and Guru’s two consorts besides the statues of Lord Buddha and Chenrezig.
Location: Located atop a cliff that resembles the hat of a great lam with the lotus at the bottom.
Background: Believed to be the second abode of Guru Rinpoche, the sacred site is believed to have been founded by Guru Rinpoche himself in the 8th century. At the site, one can see the letter ‘ཧུཾ’ inscribed on a rock beside imprints of Guru’s consort Yeshey Tshogyal, Dolma (Tara), a garuda, and the letters Ba Za Gu Ru. One is believed to attain enlightenment within one month of meditation at the holy site.
- Chumphu Ney
Location: Located at around an hour’s drive from Paro town and about an hour’s walk.
The site is blessed by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. It is also called the second ‘Tsari’. The main relic of this holy site is a life-size statue of Dorji Phagmo (Vajravahari) which is mysteriously standing in the air. It is said that the statue is not man-made. Dorji Phagmo herself turned into the statue.
- Tshephu Ney
Location: Tshephu Ney is located in Goen Shari.
Background: The sacred site was discovered by Trulku Gyeltshen Pelzang, the follower of Goe Tsangpa while visiting Bhutan from Tibet. The temple contains the statues of Guru Rinpoche with his consorts, Zhabdrung, Tshepame, Lord Buddha, and Chenrezig besides a facsimile of Zhabdrung’s hat made of gold-plated bronze.
- Do Jaga Lam
Location: Located a few kilometres from Punakha town on the Punakha-Gasa highway, Phuntsho Palri Palace.
Background: According to a legend, a popular Indian Saint Drubthob Nagi Rinchen liberated his mother from the huge black rock seen at the site. The saint visited Punakha after he came to know, through his clairvoyance power, that his mother was reborn as an organism inside the rock suffering in ephemeral hell. Drubthob split the rock into two halves with the help of lightning and liberated his mother. Do Jaga Lam means Indian Saint Rock.
- Tandin Ney
Location: Located above Samarzingkha Drana Goemba in Thimphu.
Background: When Guru Rinpoche visited Bhutan in the 8th century, he prophesied that his consort Yeshey Tshogyel would settle at the site. Accordingly, Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal meditated in a cave which came to be known as Tandin Ney. About two hours’ walk from the present monastery, there is a drupchu (holy water) created by Khandro herself known as Khandro Drupchu.
- Thuje Drak
Location: It is located on the lap of a cliff, around an hour’s walk from Phajoding Goemba.
Background: Thuje Drak is one of the four cliffs where Phajo Drugom Zhigpo meditated as per the prophecy made by Guru Rinpoche. Phajo meditated in the cave called Puemo Drakar for one month. During his meditation in the cave, he saw a vision of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara), also called Thuje Chenpo. Therefore, Phajo renamed the place as Thuje Drak (Cliff of Thuje Chenpo). We can also see a holy spring which gushed out of the place where Phajo Drugom Zhigpo planted his walking staff.
- Choeten Kora
Location: Located next to Kholong Chu, two hours’ drive from Trashigang town.
Background: The choeten was built in the image of Boudhanath Choeten in Nepal by Lam Ngawang Loday in 1740 in memory of his late uncle Pesan. It was named Doerong Choeten. A popular legend says that a girl from Tawang, a dakini, was buried alive inside the choeten to sanctify it.
- Gomphu Kora
Location: 23 km from Trashigang Dzong and a few km from Doksum.
Background: The temple was built at the site where Guru Rinpoche subdued a demon called Myongkhapa. Guru Rinpoche followed the demon who fled from Tibet and hid inside a rock. He meditated inside a cave (gomphu) for three days and subdued the demon. Many religious masters visited the sacred site. Among them was Gongkhar Gyal, the grandson of Lhasey Tsangma who built the small temple. The main relics of the temple are the footprint of a dakini, hoof of Tanag Tinkar, garuda’s egg, and a statue of Gyenyen Myongkhapa.
- Omba Ney
Location: Located in Omba village, about four and a half hours’ walk from Tsenkharla village.
Background: Omba Ney (the sacred place where the letter ཨོཾ་ is hidden) was first discovered by some descendants of Guru Cheowang. The sacred letter ཨོཾ་ is visible on a rock surface at the ney. The ney forms part of the three sacred places that contains the sacred letters ཨོཾ་ (Omba), ཨ་ (Aja), and ཧུཾ་ (Hungrel). The ney had been visited and blessed by Guru Rinpoche, Terton Pema Lingpa, and Pema Lingpa’s granddaughter Ani Choten Zangmo.
- Baylangdra Ney
Location: Located on a cliff, around an hour’s drive from Chuzomsa and half an hour’s walk from the road point.
Background: Guru Rinpoche visited the place to remove the suffering of the people and to discover treasures. When he sat there in meditation for seven days, the guardian deity of the place, Lhatsen Langdra, distracted him in the form of a red bull. But Guru transformed himself into Pedjung Dorji Gurden subdued the deity turned him into a dharma protector. Since then, the place came to be known as Langdra Ney (lang – bull; dra – cliff; ney – the sacred place. The ney remained in ruins until the 14th Je Khenpo Tenzin Namgyal rediscovered it.