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.
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.