Prominent Monasteries | Druk Asia

PROMINENT MONASTERIES

History & location
 
The Cheri Goemba monastery is one of the oldest or rather first Bhutan's Buddhist monastery located near Mt Cheri and borders the Thimphu City 14 kilometres to the north in Bhutan. Known for its famous hiking route, the Cheri monastery was built in 1620 by Ngawang Namgyal who spent more than three years in strict retreat and later dedicated the rest of his life in the monastery.
 
 It was during this time that Zhabdrung established the first Drukpa monastic order. His father’s ashes were spread and inhumed in a richly decorated silver Tibetan chorten in the inside of the upper chambers of Cheri Goemba soon after the body got smuggled from Tibet.
 
The hike to the Monastery
 
The hike/trek towards the monastery typically takes approximately one hour from the bridge for hikers but more for non-hikers. The journey uphill may be a bit tiring, but the final overall view is totally worth the climb. The trail begins by crossing a nicely covered bridge that spans around the Wang Chhu and then heads up steadily up to the monastery. The steep trail is wholly defined and scenic, and you have the chance to breathe through the cool, breezy fresh air under the trees as you head up. 
 
The place is serene, tranquil and beautiful. This is because the site is only visited once in a while by Buddhists who come to pray and meditate to get blessings. The view from the top is mesmerizing, scintillating and breathtaking as you can have the one in a lifetime view of the river flowing below.
 
Once up, your little hiking adventure will be awarded the chance to embrace the atmosphere of the Cheri Monastery with quite a few ornate temples. No photography is allowed inside. Therefore you have to climb to get a view of how it looks in the inside. Going down basically takes 20-30 minutes and its entirely your choice to go while absorbing the beauty of the trees and the natural ecology at large.
 
The present state of Cheri Goemba
 
The monastery presently acts as a significant retreat and teaching centre for the southern Tibetan Buddhism school. People from all walks of life come to tour the historic scenery while still taking some time to learn its history and the religious doctrines. The site is also known to have about 30 monks who ensure safety and are also in charge of the religious activities in the monastery.  These monks are also entrusted with taking care and maintaining the monastery.
 
Due to its rich history, Pictorial view and impressive hiking adventure, the Cheri Goemba monastery has become a favoured tourist destination especially for learners who are interested in learning the Buddhist philosophy. The place is also an essential venue for meditation, hikes retreats and studies.

Chimi Lhakhang is a popular Buddhist monastery in Bhutan. It is located near Sopsokha village in the Punakha District of Bhutan. Pilgrims and tourists have to take a stroll for 20 minutes through the beautiful rice and mustard fields to access the monastery. Popularly known as The Fertility Temple, the monastery idyllically stands on a round hillock surrounded by scenic views. Built over half a millennium ago, it’s one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.

History

Chimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarchy. The temple wasn’t the first structure on the site, though. It was Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), the maverick saint (also known as the ‘Divine Madman’) who first built a chorten at this site after blessing it. Legends have it that Lama Kunley blessed the site for the Chimi Lhakhang after subduing the demoness of Dochu La at this particular location. Drukpa Kunley used the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ to subdue the demon.

Close to the chorten that he built is giant rock, and below it is where the Dochu La demon is trapped. Drukpa Kunley is also given the name ‘Divine Madman’ or ‘Mad Saint’ for his unorthodox methods of teaching ‘Buddhism’. His methods of teaching the religion were marked by humour and many forms of outrageous behaviour. Drukpa Kunley’s ways of teaching Buddhism were shocking and bizarre, with sexual overtones. According to local legends, Drukpa Kunley had supernatural powers and could correctly predict the death of other Lamas.

Temple of Fertility

The Lama is sometimes also referred to as ‘The Saint of 5,000 Women’ due to his truly pleasure-filled lifestyle full of women and wine. He propagates intercourse as a manner to attain enlightenment. That’s the origin of the monastery’s alleged fertility inducing powers. It is said that all those who wish to conceive will receive fertility blessings at the monastery.

The Fertility Temple flocks with thousands of pilgrims who hope to have a child. Others visit the temple seeking blessings or wang from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.’ Those with new-born children often visit the local Lama to get their children bestowed with resounding forenames. You can also visit the Lamas even if you are not looking for fertility or blessings of any kind − there’s a lot to learn about the culture and history of the Bhutanese at Chimi Lhakhang.

Phallus Symbols

Chimi Lhakhang is the repository of the original wooden phallus symbol brought by Drukpa Kunley from Tibet. The giant wooden phallus is used to bless the people who visit the monastery, especially women who are looking to conceive. The 25cm (10 inches) wooden phallus has a silver handle and is also said to repel evil eyes and malicious gossip. The phallus is a symbol commonly found throughout the country.

In the village of Sopsokha near the monastery, all the houses bear paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls.

History of Eutok Samdup Choeling Goenpa

Eutok Samdup Choeling Goenpa was established by Terton Rigzin Jatson Nyingpo in the 15th century and is located in Shaba, Paro Dzongkhag around 3 kms from the Paro Thimphu highway, above the Shaba Primary School. On the right of Eutok Goenpa is the Hephu Thekchen Choeling, Terton Tshering Dorji’s abode and on the left is the Dra Karpo monastery, the holy site of Guru Rimpoche.

According to local folklore, it is said that the lama saw a vision of a lake with a gold pillar in the centre adorned with a mandala of turquoise on top and decided to make this place his abode and named it Eutok Goenpa.

It has its annual prayer ceremony Yutok Mani every year from the 10 – 18th of the 3rd month accompanied by dances of the Dharma protectors. This ceremony is to mark the consecration of the Goenpa by the patron Lama. Eutok Goenpa holds the last of the Tshechus in Paro Dzongkhag. Background

In 2003 the Eutok Goenpa was handed over to the Central Monk body by the community as it was suffering from poor administration and lack of patronage. The earthquake of 2011 further damaged the monastery. In 2012, the current Lama Lam Tshewang Paljor was appointed to the Goenpa. Lam Tshewang garnered the support of the locals and also got the patronage and support from the Royal Grand Mother. He set up a committee comprising of the village headman and influential local people and started the restoration work on the three storied monastery.

Current situation There are close to 50 monks studying and staying in the Goenpa from 6 – 20 years old sponsored by the Royal Grandmother. Lam Tshering has set up a small library for the monks to learn English and has been requesting for assistance to teach the monks the English language.

According to legend, Jampa (Jambay) Temple or Temple of Maitreya in Bumthang is said to be one of the 108 temples built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Goenpo in 659 AD on a single day. Like Kyichu Lhakhang, it is said that Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo built a series of temples in a single day throughout the Himalayas to pin down a demoness who was obstructing the spread of Buddhism.

Four temples were built to pin down her shoulders and hips; four more on the elbows and knees; and four to hold down her hands and feet. It is believed that Jambay Lhakhang was built to pin down the left knee of the demoness. Thus, Jambay Lhakhang remains one of the oldest and most sacred temples in Bhutan.

The ancient temple, Jambay Lhakhang sits on a plateau by the Bumthang Chhu River. The temple has been repaired and rebuilt several times over the years. The one-storey temple is also the venue for the popular Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival held annually.



About Jambay Lhakhang Drup

Jambay Lhakhang Drup is a four-day festival held to commemorate the building of the temple and in honour of Guru Rinpoche, the 8th-century Buddhist master who consecrated the temple. The festival features masked dances and other ceremonies.

The two key highlights of Jambay Lhakhang Drup is Mewang or Fire Blessing and Tercham or Naked Dance. During the fire blessing ceremony, the gomchens perform purification rituals while all the guests jump over the flames to get themselves purified from their sins. If one is able to jump over the flame three times, he or she is believed to be protected from misfortunes for that entire year. Some also claim that their fire dance is performed to bless infertile women so that they may bear children.

Tercham or Naked Dance is a popular dance among the spectators. Exactly at midnight, there will be sixteen naked men galloping in the air rhythmically with accompanying drums and cymbals. The dance is one of the most revered dances in Bumthang for the locals. The sacred dancers are completely naked except for their faces which are covered in white cloths and masks. And no, you are not allowed to take photographs of the dancers.

It’s believed that Tercham was introduced by the great treasure revealer, Terton Dorji Lingpa. Legend has it that demons delayed the construction of a monastery by destroying it every night, thus, Terton Dorji Lingpa established this dance to distract the demons. Terton Dorji Lingpa then brought the dance to Jambay Lhakhang during its consecration.

The Jambay Lhakhang Drup festival takes place annually around October or November.

Kurjey Lhakhang, is one of the most holy and sacred sites in Bhutan, located in the Bumthang district. Nestled on the side of a hill, surrounded by 108 chorten walls, the complex houses three revered temples, namely: Guru Lhakhang, Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang and Ka Gon Phor Sum Lhakhang.

The structures of the temples are as magnificent as the dzong, ancient fortresses in Bhutan. It has white washed walls with delicate wood carvings and hand paintings.

During the 8th Century, Sendhu Raja, the king of Bumthang at that time, fell ill. He invited Guru Rinpoche who brought Buddhism to Bhutan to cure him. Guru Rinpoche found out that the king’s illness was caused by the malevolent actions of the local deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo. Having found the cause of the illness, Guru Rinpoche chased the deities into a cave, and meditated inside for three months. Guru Rinpoche then subdued the deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo and left his body imprint inside the cave, thus, giving the name Kurjey (Body Imprint). Kur means body, Jey is imprint while lhakhang means temple. Beside the monastery is a tall cypress tree that is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpoche.

The first of the three temples, the Guru Lhakhang, is the oldest and was built in 1652. Tucked just below the caves is a figure of a snow lion with a jachung (also called garuda) above it, which represents the famous struggle between Guru Rinpoche (appearing as the garuda) and the local demon, Shelging Kharpo (as the snow lion). The statue of Shelging Kharpo inside the temple is hidden from view.

At the entrance to the lower-floor of Sangay Lhakhang, there is a small crawl-through rock passage. Bhutanese believe that by crawling through the narrow tunnel, you will leave your sins behind. Behind the statues of the three Buddhas is a secret passageway that is said to have once led to Tharpaling.

The second temple, the Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang, was built by Ugyen Wangchuck, the first king of Bhutan, in 1990 when he was still penlop of Trongsa. It is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of Guru's body and is therefore considered the most holy.

The third temple was built in 1984 by Ashi Kesang Wangchuck, the Queen Mother (Queen to the third king of Bhutan) under the guidance of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.



The temple offers a spectacular view of the Bumthang valleys. From Kurjey Lhakhang, you can also explore the mesmerising apple orchards and dairy farms nearby.

Kyichu Lhakhang is located in the north of Paro town. It is the oldest and one of the most beautiful temples in Bhutan. It also goes by the names Lho Kyerchu or Kyerchu, and it is considered to be the sacred Jewel of Bhutan. The main temple of Jowo Lhakhang has roots as far back as the 7th century.

The temple was one of the 108 monasteries established by the Buddhist King Songstsen Gampo of Tibet. 12 of the 108 monasteries were built to pin down a demoness that laid across Tibet and Himalayas who prevented the spread of Buddhism. The twelve monasteries were believed to have been built at the twelve vital points of the demoness to subjugate her and to ensure the propagation of Buddhism. The 108 monasteries were said to be built in one day by artisans who were emanations of King Songtsen Gampo himself.



The original Kyichu Lhakhang was initially small in size but after multiple visits over the years by Buddhist saints, the temple expanded both in grandeur and size. In the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava was believed to have visited the Kyichu Lhakhang and hidden a variety of treasures in the temple. Guru Padmasambhava hid many spiritual Ters (profound treasures) in Tibet, Bhutan and other parts of the Himalayan region. These treasures were to be discovered at certain times, places and under auspicious circumstances by Tertons (Treasure Revealers). The treasures comprise sacred teachings, statues, or relics, which would greatly benefit sentient beings at the time of discovery.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal took over the temple in 1674. The temple was later reconstructed in the year 1836-1838 by the 25th Je Khenpo Sherab Gyaltshen. In 1968, a new structure of the temple was built and named Guru Lhakang. The extension was made by the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. Other Buddhist Saints that visited Kyichu Lhakhang temple for prayers also created an impact by expanding the temple. The prominent Buddhist saints who visited the temple in the 8th century were Phajo Dugom Zhigpo, Lam Kha Nga and Guru Rinpoche.



What you can find in Kyichu Lhakhang
As one walks toward Kyichu Lhakhang, the environment is quiet and serene. The ancient monastery is a fantastic place where you will find elderly pilgrims circumambulating around the temple as they spin the prayer wheels.

Inside the inner courtyard, there is a painting of the King named Gesar of Ling on the wall just near the entrance. The king was a renowned warrior in Tibet, and his epic poem is the longest in the world according to history.

The Kyichu Lhakang conceals the statue of Jowo Jamba originally from the 7th century. The icon is one of the greatest treasures of the valley. There is also another statue of Chenrezig outside the shrine that has 1000 arms and 11 heads. There is the wooden floor that has grooves worn by the generations of prostrators. The main entrance door is coated with gold. Kyichu Lhakhang holds ancient relics and the floor of the main temple constructed with wood decorated with turquoise and other precious stones and gems.

The structure next to Kyichu Lhakhang is the Guru Lhakhang which consists of Kurukulla and a 5-meter high statue of Guru Rinpoche holding an arrow made of flowers and a bow. On the outside of the temple, there are two orange magical trees that bear fruits throughout the year. There are also monk houses, prayer wheels, Lenza script on tiny prayer wheels.

Kyichu Lhakhang is a place of art and culture that is very important to historians, art connoisseurs and visitors all around the globe. This ancient monastery is a popular tourist spot for visitors. Sometimes, travellers even meditate at the temple.

Find out what are the other popular tourist attractions in Paro.

Are you considering a visit to Bhutan? Your visit will not be complete without touring the picturesque and culturally endowed Haa Valley. This vast scenic valley covers an area 1706 square kilometre and is located in the southwestern region of Paro, Bhutan. It’s one of the smallest Dzongkhags in the country. This tiny region of the kingdom is full of tranquil mountain peaks, pristine forests, and is one of the most beautiful places in Bhutan. 
 
The Haa district of Bhutan borders Tibet and is the ancestral home of the royal grandmother. Most importantly, Haa Valley is home to the two most important temples in the kingdom, the Lhakhang Karpo (The White Temple) & Lhakhang Nagpo (The Black Temple). The temples are situated at the base of the ‘Miri Punsum,’ a sacred site that consists of three hills that can be seen from Chimi and Ugyen’s homestays. The Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo are some of the most popular destinations in the Haa Valley.
 
History 
 
The Lhakhang Karpo and Lhakhang Nagpo are two of the 108 monasteries built by SongtsenGampo, a Tibetan king in the 7th century. These temples are the guardians of the people of Haa Valley; they watch over them. The Tibetan king SongtsenGampo, when building the temples, is said to have released two doves from his consciousness, a black and a white one, to choose the perfect site to erect the temples in Haa Valley. At the time, King SongtsenGampo was on a mission to build108 monasteries in one day. 
 
Lhakhang Karpo (The White Temple)
 
The white pigeon perched at the foothills of the three magnificent mountains to the south of the Haa Dzong, commonly known as RigsumGonpo. This is the location of the Lhakhang Karpo or the White Temple. The temple’s architecture is the true depiction of Bhutanese art and culture, both on the outside and the inside. An intricately carved colossal door welcomes tourists with much grandeur to the temple. 
 
The interior of the Lhakhang Karpo (white temple) walls are decorated with paintings and murals of great Buddhist saints, deities, and masters. At the white temple, locals and tourists get to embody the true Buddhist values of kindness and Dharma. Here, life is believed to represent a gentle passage to the liberating realm of death. Once a year, a one-week puja known as MoenlamChenmo is practiced at the Lhakhang Karpo. The Lhakhang Karpo was renovated to give it a revamped look. 
 
Lhakhang Nagpo (The Black Temple)
 
A short drive — or a ten-minute walk — north of the Lhakhang Karpo is the Lhakhang Nagpo (the black temple). This is the spot that the black pigeon chose. Built on top of a lake, the Lhakhang Nagpo owes its name to its colour (black) in the middle of a tranquil green lush forest. The temple is nicely painted in black and exhibits deep horizontal slits of red and white. The dark and mysterious Lhakhang Nagpo is a representation of the tantric procedures prevalent in the valley. It’s where the guardian deity Da Do Chen sits.
 
Both the white and the black temple were built around the same time. Unlike the white temple, there are no monk quarters in the black temple. The only residence you will find in the Lhakhang Nagpo is a small hut for the caretaker where he lives with a fierce dog. The black temple has an opening on the floor that leads to the lake underneath where the mermaid spirit (tshomen) resides. There’s a holy oak tree next to the Lhakhang Nagpo; don’t skip it in your visit to the Haa Valley. 
The Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery is located on top of a hill overlooking the magnificent Punakha, Toebesa and Wangduephodrang valleys. The temple is a true depiction of Bhutanese construction style expressing rich traditional values dating back to centuries. As you drive up the winding road, beautiful flowers lead you to the nunnery.
 
The temple complex is home to 14 feet bronze sculpture of Avalokiteshvara. The complex also houses other statues such as the 21 Taras, Padmasambhava, Buddha of Longevity, and Zhabdrung Ngawang.
The Avalokiteshvara statue is popular since it’s the largest in Bhutan and was skillfully crafted by local native artisans. 
 
Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery was constructed as a college for training nuns. It’s a double storey temple sanctified by His Holiness Je Khenpo in an event attended by many dignitaries including His Majesty King Druk Gyalpo the fourth, royal family members and hundreds of Punakha people. 
 
The nunnery consists of 70 rooms and started with 41 nuns. Today, the houses are occupied by over 100 nuns. The complex serves as a meditation centre for nuns. In addition to serving as a religious education centre, the complex aims to offer life skill training including Thangka painting, embroidery, tailoring and sculpting. 
 
Competently carved black marble blocks around the stupa displays 16 Arhats, the great lamas of Drukpa Kagyu and the 84 Mahasiddhis lineage giving the complex a unique monastic feature. 
 
The complex’s tranquil ambience offers a perfect atmosphere for tourists to immerse themselves in meditation sessions and take time learning and observing spiritual lives practised by nuns as they equip themselves with various skill training.
Tango Goemba is a Buddhist monastery situated near the scenic Cheri Mountains in Bhutan. The monastery is just 9 miles (14 km) north of the country’s capital city, Thimphu. Tango Goemba has a rich history and is one of the highest Buddhist learning centres in Bhutan. A vast majority of religious leaders — locally known as Je Khenpo —in the country have gone through a nine-year training program at this particular monastery.
 
History
 
Tango Goemba has been in existence for hundreds of years. The monastery was founded in 12th century by PhajoDrugomZhigpo. The monastery was, however, constructed to its current form by the Temporal Ruler, Tenzin Rabgye in 1688. Lama ZhabdrungNgawangNamgyal paid a visit to the Tango Goemba in 1616. The Tibetan was a descendant of Lama Drukpa Kunley (popularly known as the ‘divine madman’). He is said to have introduced the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism in Bhutan.
 
Religious Significance 
 
Deified in the monastery is the self-emanated manifestation of the vengeful Hayagriva. The name ‘Tango’ translates to ‘horse head’ in Bhutanese. Bhutanese religious leaders, Je Khenpo, are taught at the Tango Goemba. After completing their training, the monks spend 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat. It was during his visit to the Cheri Goemba that PhajoDrugomZhigpo, one of the founders of the teachings of Dodeyna heard neighs coming from the direction of the monastery.
 
At the same time, he observed a Hayagriva or ‘horse head’ surrounded by a blaze (which is believed to be the manifestation of god Tandin). The self-emanation of the wrathful horse head or Hayagriva is prophesied in Tibet. That’s the origin of the monastery’s religious significance. Many local legends consider the Tango Goemba a holy place. Ngawang Tenzin is said to have acclaimed the divine nature of Tango Goemba. 
 
Festivals
 
One of the many important festivals held in the monastery is the Yarney, a monk summer retreat held on the 15th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar. The ‘Yarney’ is a festival for the monks and loosely translates to ‘a summer stay.’ During the festival, the monks wear the ceremonial yellow robes and observe the strictest monastic disciplines and special vows. The Yarney festival lasts for one and a half months.
 
Architecture
 
The Tango Goemba has a prominent main tower with recesses. The outside wall has a characteristic curved (semi-circular) wall. The structure is built in a Dzong fashion. The site of the monastery used to cave where saints performed miracles and other religious activities such as meditation. The monastery covers these caves, and you will find engraved slates behind the prayer wheels inside the monastery. Just outside the Tango Goemba is a courtyard with a gallery with illustrations of the leaders of the Drukpa Kagyupa lineage.
 
Temples
 
Gyalse Tenzin Rabgyein directed the construction of the 12-cornered monastery. The structure was built within a period of two months. The Tango Goemba has six temples in total, including Trulku Lhakhang, Longku Lhakhang, Choeku Lhakhang, Guru Lhakhang, Namsey Lhakhang, and Gonkhang. The statues in each of these temples are made of gold and copper. The monastery, which is currently under renovation, has three floors.
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