The three storeychorten- shaped temple representing hell, earth and heaven was built in 1421 by the iron-bridge builder ThangtongGyelpo. Also nicknamed The Changzampa, he was a great builder who built 58 iron bridges throughout Tibet and Bhutan and founded “Ache Lhamo” the Tibetan Opera. Legend has it that his opera performances raised the money he needed to build his iron bridges.
The temple has a lot of legend to why it was first constructed. The most popular legend says it was built on the head of a demon to suppress the serpentine force that was getting all inhabitants ill.
The central tower (utse), the pinnacle of the temple is chained from four directions to the roof of the temple. It is believed that while the consecration was being performed, the central tower moved attempting to fly to Tibet. Thus to stop it from its flight, the central tower was chained down.
The lhakhang is conceived as a mandala, with three different storeys corresponding to the different levels of beginning (Hell, earth and heaven). Each level displays a massive collection of Buddhist painting and iconography as old as the 5th century. The temple also portrays unique paintings of the progressive stages of Tantric Buddhist philosophy as well as the most important deities and figures of the Drukpa Kagyudpa School.
It is shaped like a chorten with white tower on top which is not commonly seen in Bhutan. There are stories about Nya goe (Men of great strength) being employed in the construction to lift the massive pillars used in the temple. It is said that on the day of construction, the founder himself appeared in the form of five vultures, and circled the temple showering his blessings.
The ground floors holds statue of different forms of Buddhas, Avalokiteshvara, Guru Rinpoche andThangtonGyelpo. On the second floor are depictions of Mahakala on the outer wall with hundreds of deities andBardo on the interior wall, the intermediary state between death and rebirth. On the third floor of Dungtselhakang are Tantric deities. Depicted on the exterior wall are Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava, Cakrasamvara, Hevajra, Kalacakra, Vajravarahi and Mahamaya.
The lhakhang was restored in the year 1842 by the 25th Head Abbot of Bhutan, SherabGyeltshen. Beyond DungtseLhakhang, to the east of the road is PanaLhakhang, which is believed to have been built in the seventh century.