Must-visit places in Bhutan
The chronicled history of the country begins with the advent of Buddhism in the 8th century. Guru Padmasambhava, popularly revered in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche or the Precious Master, made his legendary trip in 747 A.D. on the back of a flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. After defeating them, he blessed them and made them local guardians of the doctrine, thus introducing Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan.
Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest in the Paro valley is where he landed and today it remains one of the most sacred places in Bhutan. The name Bhutan is derived from the Sanskrit Bootan, meaning the land of Tibet, or Bhu-uttan, meaning High land. Historically the Bhutanese have referred to their country as Druk Yul, the land of the thunder dragon, and themselves as Drukpa people. Guru Rimpoche is recognized as the second Buddha as well as the father of the Drukpa Kagyu school of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism practiced in Bhutan. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a Tibetan lama of Drukpa Kagyu School arrived in Bhutan in 1616 AD.; consolidated the country under a unified power, built Dzongs throughout Bhutan, and established the Choesi (Dual) system of governance, whereby both the temporal and the religious authority were separated and vested in the Druk Desi (Temporal Head) and Je Khenpo(Spiritual Head)respectively.
Bhutan emerged with a distinct national and cultural identity, as well as, an unprecedented degree of political stability. During the second half of the 18th century, the country witnessed a resurgence of political instability,. The unity of the country was affected by internal dissent. External threats in the latter half of the 19th century added a new dimension to the political quandary. It was against this background that the need for strong leadership emerged. Peace and stability were restored with the enthronement of His Majesty King Ugyen Wangchuk (1907-1926). On December 17, 1907, with the signing and sealing of the Oath of Allegiance in a grand ceremony in Punakha Dzong, Ugyen Wangchuck became the first hereditary monarch of the Kingdom of Bhutan. The monarchy has thrived ever since, and the present Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1972 to present), commands overwhelming support for his people.
Paro (2200 meters)
This beautiful terraced valley, full of legend and myths is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples – and its first airport. The National Museum is located in an ancient watchtower here, and Taktshang Monastery clings to sheer cliff 900 meters above the valley; plus so many other attractions that require a few days to explore.
Places of interest in Paro
This dzong, with a delightful village nestling at its foot, was built in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to commemorate his victory over the Tibetans invaders led by the Mongolian Warlord, Gushri Khan. This dzong captured the first western eyes (John Claude White) in 1914 and was featured on the cover of the US National Geographic magazine.
Above the Rimpung Dzong, this unusual building served as the watchtower to defend Rimpung Dzong during the inter-valley wars of the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1967, it was converted into the only National Museum and holds vast collections of Bhutanese Thangka paintings and other artifacts.
Built-in 1646 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the Dzong controls all the secular and religious activities in the valley. It is also the venue of the Paro Tshechu (festival) held once a year in springtime
At the starting point of Paro town, this temple was founded in 1525 by Lama Ngawang Chogyal – one of the prince-abbots of Druk Ralung in Tibetan ancestor of the Zhabdrung.
A meditation place of Guru Rimpoche clings to the rock above Bondey valley, also known as the second Taktshang. The first and the last day of the Paro festival take place here. From the valley, it takes only 30 minutes to reach, through forests of rhododendron and oak trees, with white monkeys on it.
It is one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in the Kingdom dating back to the 7th century when Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo was built to pin down the left foot of an ogress that is so large that it covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet.
Taktsang Monastery (half-day excursion)
Taktshang the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, clinging to a granite rock face – 900 meters above the valley floor. The name means “Tiger’s Nest”; it was named because Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) is said to have flown to this site from eastern Bhutan on the back of a tigress. On 19 April 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure and it is now fully restored to its original splendor.
The beauty of Paro is seen in the typical farmhouses, built following the same architectural plan that is decorative and colorful. A visit to such a farmhouse will enlighten you about their lifestyles.
Kila Goemba (full day excursion)
It is a serene home to more than 30 Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their life in search of the Noble Truth. This monastery was built in the 9th century by Drubthob Choje Norbu and Drubthob Temba as a meditation site and later renovated by the 25th Je Khenpo (chief-abbot), Sherub Gyeltshen. From the car road below Chele la, it takes more than one hour to reach this site, and the hike is beautiful.
Thimphu (2,300 meters)
Thimphu has been the capital of Bhutan since 1955. Once a small rural settlement, today it is home to more than 50,000 inhabitants. It is the center of government, religion, and commerce; it is perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, a mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions.
Places of interest in Thimphu
Built-in 1974 in memory of Bhutan’s third king., His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, this stupa represents the mind of Buddha. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Esoteric Buddhism.
Built-in 1641 on the banks of the Wang Chu river, it houses the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, Govt. Ministries, the nation’s largest monastery and headquarters of His Holiness the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). It is open to tourists only after 5:00 in the evening and during weekends.
A seven km from Thimphu, perched on a hillock, Simtokha is the oldest Dzong, built-in 1627 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It houses the school for Buddhist studies. Paintings and statues inside are beyond expression.
This building contains thousands of manuscripts and ancient xylographs, as well as many wooden printing blocks. Western books and magazines can be consulted on subjects relating to, Bhutan and Buddhism.
Zorig Chusum (Painting School
In this school, children learn the traditional Thirteen Arts and Crafts of Bhutan. Traditional Medicine Institute: This Institute continues the tradition of healing the sick in the most ancient form using herbal medicines which may include, plants, minerals, animals, and even human parts. The Institute also imparts the traditional art of healing to would-be practitioners.
This is one of the oldest temples in Thimphu valley, having been built in the 15th century by a descendant of Lama Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, the founder of Drukpa School in Bhutan in the 13th century. The main statue is of Avalokiteshvara in bronze and gold plated. There is a magnificent view of the city below from this temple.
Druk Handicrafts Emporium
There are several Handicrafts Emporiums in town, displaying a wide variety of Bhutanese handicrafts. Except for the Govt. owned,
Thimphu Weekend market
Every Saturday and Sunday most inhabitants of Thimphu and some from as far as Punakha and Wangduephodrang converge here on the banks of the Wang Chu, to buy and sell vegetables, cereals, and as well as some handicrafts. Please follow your guide's instructions, as some handicrafts may look old and Bhutanese, but not; they are mostly from India, and most stones are plastics.
Tango Monastery (Full day excursion)
17 kilometers to the north of Thimphu, this monastery was founded by Lama Gyalwa Lhanangpa in the 12th century. The present building was built in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman”. The Utse of the central tower was built in the 18th century by the fourth Temporal Ruler – Druk Desi Tenzin Rabgye whose present re-incarnation lives at Tango studying. From the car road, it takes 1 hour to climb up to the monastery.
Cheri Goemba (full day excursion)
Near Tango, this monastery was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620. Bhutan’s first Clergy was established at Cheri. There is a cave where Zhabdrung meditated in1616. In the central tower, there is the temple, which with a huge silver stupa studded with coral and other gems, which holds the ashes of Zhabdrung's father Tenpai Nima. The hike starts from the car road – crossing the lovely traditional wooden bridge that spans the Thimphu River, then climbs to the monastery. It takes about an hour to reach the top. Cheri is a retreat center for Buddhist monks.
Both Cheri and Tango monastery can be visited in one full day excursion, but you will require special permission.
Phajoding Monastery (full day excursion)
It is situated at 3700meters overlooking Thimphu valley. As its name implies, the complex of Phajoding takes its name from the saint Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who meditated here in the 13th century. At one time, it used to be one of the richest monasteries in the country. It takes about 4 hours to hike through thick forests to the monastery and the most popular Druk-path trek ends or starts at Phajoding.
Punakha (1400 meters)
Punakha is 3 hours drive from Thimphu over the Dochu La pass (3100m) from where the view of Bhutan Himalayas is spectacular. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and it is still the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (chief-abbot) and the central clergy. Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by Pho Chu (Male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is one of the most fertile valleys in Bhutan, abundant with crops and vast terraces of rice fields.
Places of interest in Punakha
Situated strategically at the confluence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, it was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of Bhutan. Damaged by fires, earthquakes, and floods, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King and is one of the most impressive of all Dzongs. The Dzong is open to visitors throughout the year. In February/early March, a unique festival known as “Dromchoe” takes place inside the Dzong; it ends with a procession known as “Serda”, and every after two years, a huge thangkha of Zhabdrung is displayed on the day after the Serda.
Khamsum Yuele Namgyal Chorten
Located 7 kilometers north of Punakha dzong, on a hill called Nezergang, this is the most beautiful stupa in the whole country. Conceived in a form of a temple, it was built by the Royal Family in the early 1990s. The view of the mountains and valley below is spectacular from this chorten. From the car road, hiking across the bridge that spans the Mo Chu takes less than an hour to the top.
Chimi Lhakhang (temple)
Located between Punakha and Wangduephodrang (same valley), this temple on a hillock among the rice fields is a famous pilgrimage site for childless couples. Blessed by the Lama Drukpa Kuenley "Divine Madman", the objects inside are unbelievable!
Situated below the Royal estate, Talo, this monastery is famous for its sixteen-corner temple. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it used to be the retreat place for retired Je Khenpo (chief abbot).
Wangdue Phodrang (1350 meters)
The last town on the highway before entering Central Bhutan, below rich cattle pastures at the junction of the Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers, a striking Dzong guards the windy valley.
Places of interest in Wangduephodrang
Built on the spur at the confluence of two rivers with an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west roads, Wangduephodrang played a critical role in unifying the Western, Central, and Southern Bhutan, in the 17th century. It is also the venue for the 3 days festival (Tshechu) is held around September end to the beginning of October every year and on the last day of the festival, a huge Thangka is displayed.
Gangtey Gompa (Phobjikha valley)
Towards the east of Wangduephodrang, this small village at the edge of the Black Mountain range is awash in golden hues- from its yellow-roofed temple to the wheat fields where black neck crane begin their migration before soaring off to Tibet in Spring.
Trongsa (2200 meters)
Trongsa is in the center of Bhutan and five hours by road from Wangdue Phodrang across the Black Mountains - through a long valley, the ancestral house of Bhutan’s royal Family the Wangchuck Dynasty. Spectacular views frame the massive many-leveled Trongsa Dzong; strategically located to guard what has been for centuries the only east-west route through Bhutan.
Places of interest in Trongsa
Founded in a form of a temple in 1543 by Zhabdrung's great grandfather and later built as a Dzong in 1644, this is the most impressive Dzong in the Kingdom and can be seen from a great distance in its strategic position high above the Mangde Chu River.
The Royal family has strong links with Trongsa. Both His Majesty the King Ugyen Wangchuk, the Penlop (governor) of Trongsa, and his successor, King Jigme Wangchuk ruled the country from Trongas’s ancient Dzong. The crown Prince of Bhutan has always held the position of the Trongsa Penlop (Governor) before ascending the throne. The present King continued this tradition as he was appointed Trongsa Penlop in 1972 shortly before he ascended the throne of Bhutan. The Dzong is a masterpiece of architecture, a maze of courtyards, passageways, and corridors containing, in addition, 21 temples.
Built to guard the Dzong below, this watchtower has a fairly narrow tower section and two wings that extend in front of the main part of the building. The temple inside the main tower is dedicated to King Gesar, the hero of a great epic.
From Trongsa, it takes one hour by car to this the winter palace of the second King of Bhutan. The drive is very beautiful with views of mountains, valleys, and the Trongsa dzong.
On the way to Trongsa – Chendebji Chorten is Nepalese in style, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century to overcome a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley.
Phuntsholing (300 meters)
From its vast views of the Indian plains, this overland gateway town is the start of a breathtaking drive around hairpin turns through lush forests to the towns and valleys of the Inner Himalayas. This town is also the most convenient entry/exit point if one is to combine tours with visits to West Bengal, Sikkim, and Assam, all in India.
Places of interest in Phuntsholing
Built on a hillock, at an altitude of 400 meters, this beautiful monastery stands above the vast plains of India like a sentinel. The monastery contains beautiful paintings of the life of Buddha on the walls, statues of Guru Rimpoche, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified Bhutan in the 17th century.
Built-in 1982, this small temple represents the paradise of Guru Padmasambhava. On the ground floor, there are statues of the eight forms of Guru Padmasambhava, arranged as a tree of life, and paintings of the life of Buddha on the walls. On the next floor are the eight Bodhisattvas and statues of Avalokiteshvara with thousand eyes and arms and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. On the top floor, the main statue is of Amitabh Buddha.
Bumthang(2650 – 4000 meters)
Nestled in the barley fields and apple groves, Bumthang valley is the cultural hub of Bhutan, with temples dating back to the seventh century, myths and legends about kings and serpents, it is one of THE most sacred valleys of Bhutan.
Places of interest in Bumthang
This temple was built in the seventh century AD., by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo to subdue an ogress that hindered the spread of Buddhism. In the eighth century, Guru Rimpoche meditated here and gave teachings to the king and people of Bumthang. During fall (Oct/Nov) one of the most spectacular festivals in Bhutan, the Jambey Lhakhang Drub, is staged here. It starts with the fire blessing on the first night, where people rush under the fire gate to burn away their bad deeds, and at midnight of the following 4 days festival, lama dancers perform the sacred dance called the Tercham, without any cloth on their body.
Kurjey temple is named after the body imprint of Guru Rimpoche – which is preserved in a cave inside the oldest of the three buildings that make up the Kurjey complex. The oldest one on the far right was built in 1652, the second was built in 1900 and the last one was built in 1990 by the Royal Queen Mother, Ashi Kezang Wangchuk.
It was one of Guru Rinpoche’s meditation sites and the temple was founded by Terton Pema Lingpa, the re-incarnation of Guru Rimpoche in 1490.
Located in the valley opposite the Kurjey complex, this temple was built by Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501. Pema Lingpa was a short man and it is said that he built the low ceiling of the balcony to his exact height. Beautiful paintings of 100000 Buddhas and other Buddhist saints, that were never re-painted, decorate the walls of the temple inside. This is also the venue of the Tamshing Phala Choedpa, a 3-day festival held around September/October, where monks of the Tamshing monastery perform sacred dances to honor Guru Padmasambhava.
Located in the middle of a wide, fertile plateau overlooking the river, the yellow-roofed temple was built in 1470 by Shamar Rimpoche, Lama of Karma Kagyu lineage. After a quarrel, it was taken over by Terton Pema Lingpa. Around the end of September/beginning of October, there is a beautiful 3 days festival held at Thangbi (also known as Thankabi), starting with a big fire ceremony to bless the devotees. To go there you have to drive a few kilometers north of Kurjey until Tokto Zam (bridge) and walk for 15 minutes to this valley.
Tharpaling monastery (full day excursion)
This monastery is located at 3700 meters above Bumthang first valley, Gyetsa (Chume). It was built in 1352 by Longchen Rabjampa, a great Philosopher of the Dzogchen, a sect within the Nyingmapa (Red hat) school. Statues and paintings inside the monastery are worth viewing. From Gyetsa valley, it takes about 3 hours to the top.
Kunzangdrak monastery (full day excursion)
This monastery is one of the most important sites related to Pema Lingpa. In 1488, Pema Lingpa built a temple all by himself and many of his relics are kept here, one of which is a gilded stone bearing his footprint. Apart from Pema Lingpa’s living quarters, the monastery consists of three temples: the Wangkhang with the statue of Avalokiteshvara with a thousand arms and eyes; Oezerphug, the meditation cave of Pema Lingpa's son Dawa Gyaltshen; and the Khandroma Lhakhang, which contains a gilded copper statue of Pema Lingpa. It takes 2.5 hours uphill from the car road above
12 kilometers from Jakar following the highway towards the east, Membartsho is a famous pilgrimage site of Bhutan where Pema Lingpa re-discovered treasures hidden by Padmasambhava in the eighth century, and thus became a terton, a ‘ treasure discoverer’.
It is the highest in Bumthang valley and is believed by some to have been the home of the earliest inhabitants of Bhutan. From Jakar the road follows the highway to east Bhutan, passing below Mebartsho, through the Tangsabi village, and across the Sheatang la pass (3600m), from where Bhutan’s highest mountain Gangkhar Puensum can be seen in the most picturesque Ura village. There is a temple above the village, which has some fine paintings. During April/May, there are a five days festivals held here at Ura. The drive takes about 2.5 hours.
Mongar (1600 meters)
It is in eastern Bhutan 205 kilometers away from Bumthang. The breathtaking journey across some of the highest motor passes and descending as low as 600 meters at Lingmethang. Along this trip, you will see cascading waterfalls and many, wildlife in its natural habitat. This is also the best stretch for bird-watching groups where you will see many species of birds including the Rufous Necked Hornbill.
Places of interest in Mongar
It is one of the newest Dzongs, built-in 1930s, yet like other old Dzongs, it houses both the administration as well as monks who pursue their knowledge in religious affairs.
Though under the Mongar district, this monastery is accessible only from far eastern Bhutan. 10 kilometers before reaching Trashigang, the road turns left following a steep unpaved road for 19 kilometers, completing 22 turns to the monastery. The monastery was founded by Choden Zangmo, the granddaughter of Pema Lingpa in the 16th century. In most of the Tsechu (festivals) the Dance of the Drametse originated from this monastery. During fall, there is a 3 days festival here, at Drametse.
Lhuntse or popularly known as Kurtoe is an isolated district, 75 kilometers north of Mongar. However, the landscape is beautiful with stark cliffs and deep gorges filled with chir-pine trees and terraced rice fields. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The region is notably famed for its weavers, embroidery of a special silk fabrics ‘Kushuthara’ woven in open space in front of the farmhouses.
Places of interest in Lhuntse
Founded in the form of a temple in the 16th century and later enlarged as Dzong by Trongsa Penlop (Governor) Mingyur Tenpa in 1654, the Dzong sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley below and houses both administrative block as well as the religious part with numerous temples. There is a 3 days festival performed here, around December/January.
Lhuentse is one of the easternmost districts in Bhutan and borders the autonomous region of Tibet. As the ancestral home of our Kings, it hosts several important and sacred monuments. The most important amongst these is Lhuntse Dzong, a majestic fortress that sits upon a high ridge overlooking the Kurichu River.
A small hermitage and a temple were built in 1552 by Ngagi Wangchuk and later enlarged to their present state by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Almost every village in Lhuntse boasts of festivals that are unique and distinct from those in other communities in Bhutan. Two notable festivals are the Cha and the Ha festivals. They are celebrated to honor the deities and avert misfortunes. However, the most important festival is the annual three-day festival. The Tshechu is normally celebrated in November and draws large numbers of people together for religious celebrations. During the Tshechu, attendees can cleanse their sins by watching masked dances and can receive blessings from sacred relics that are publicly displayed.
One of the most interesting and visually appealing aspects of these Tshechu is the colorful attire of Kushuthara that Lhuentse is famous for You will come across various intricate and beautiful patterns of Kira and rich ornaments on display.
Gangzur Village is located in Lhuntse Dzongkhag at a distance of two kilometers from Lhuntse Dzong. This village is famous for its pottery as many of the women here are renowned artisans adept at their craft.
It is also seen as a dying art and the Government is now making efforts to revive it through financial support. When visiting Gangzur Village it is worthwhile to take the time to watch the local women practicing their art.
Guru Rinpoche is associated with the sacred secret location of Aja Ney, which is located at an elevation of more than 3,500 meters above sea level. Every year, more than 100 pilgrims from all across the country visit the sanctified place.
It would take a week to complete the journey to Aja Ney. The holy Aja Nye is home to several religious places and symbols, including Guru's foot and body prints, Khandro Drowa Zangmo's footprint, Guru Rinpoche's 108 retreat caves, and the footprint of Lam Karma Jamyang, who found the undiscovered important religious location.
There is indeed a Menchu on the Aja Ney. Many people come to soak in the Menchu since it is believed to treat 18 illnesses, including TB, bodily pains, ulcers, and whooping cough. “We can also see a pair of Jachungs, and it is believed that the wings of the Jachungs comprise 108 butter lights, 108 lakes, and 108 Tsa Tsas. It also contains a pair of golden fish,” says Kezang Eden, the site's guide.
There is also a stream, which falls from the rocky cliff at Tshekor. It is known as Aai Chhu. The stream falls on a rock basin forming a pool, where it is believed that the Guru had taken bath. “This stream came into existence after Guru’s walking stick was implanted in the rock. The stream falls on a rock basin forming a pool, where it is believed the Guru had taken bath. A bath in the pool is believed to purify a person,” says Sangay Yeshi, another guide at the Ney.
Among the several sacred spots, the most popular site is a small cavern on the bank of Aja Chhu where Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months. The rock that bears 100 sacred syllables ‘Aa’ is said to have been imprinted in the cave after Guru completed his meditation.
About 800 pilgrims across the country visit the sacred site of Aja Ney annually. People as far as Arunachal Pradesh in India also visit to seek blessings and to offer their prayers. “Six of us are visiting the sacred site today. We have heard from our grandparents that there are many sacred sites in Bhutan. So we are very happy to visit all the sacred sites,” says Dhendup Pelzang, a pilgrim from the Indian town of Tawang.
His late father Aja Lam Dorji Tenzin brought up lam Kezang Chhophel, 58, at Aja Ney. According to him, Guru Rinpoche had actually prophesied that it would be discovered by the Ninth Karmapa but due to old age instructed his disciple Lam Karma Jamyang to reveal the Neys.
“I heard from my father, also with less historical background, that in the 8th century when Ugyen Guru Rinpoche visited Tibet he came to Bhutan to subdue one demon, the demon, which was supposed to be in Gom Kora, and after subduing the demon he went back to Tibet. So on the way to Tibet, he visited Aja and blessed the sacred place. He also meditated there for three months,” says Lam Kezang.
Aja Ney falls under protected areas of the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. The viability of ecotourism would be the solution for the benefit of the people living within the park areas.
Meanwhile, Folks who visited the Ney said it was indeed spiritual healing. “It is a sacred site blessed by Guru Rinpoche and I think such a site like Aja is very important for not only practicing Buddha Dharma but also promoting this faith, so for the followers of Buddhism and practitioners and also for the potential believers of the faith I think we have to really maintain and protect such sites.”
It is believed that the merit gained by chanting one Baza Guru or Mani in Aja is equivalent to thousand times in other places.
It takes less than two hours from the car road to cross the bridge across Kuri Chhu. This village is famous for its young women weavers who, in small bamboo houses in the open rice fields, produce some of the finest silk textiles in the whole of Bhutan. These textiles, worn by Bhutanese women during festivals are known as ‘Kushuthara’, with intricate designs and lots of embroidery works; it takes women more than once a year to complete one such Kira.
Rinchen Bumpa -A Vase of Jewels
The sacred place is Rinchen Bumpa (the Vase of Jewel) while some scholars also called Rinchen Pungpa (A Heap of Jewels) though it bears a different meaning. It is a most charming place found under Kurtoe Gewog of Lhuentse Dzongkhag. In the eighth century, Guru Rinpoche first blessed the place by meditating for three months. Upon duly blessings and became so sacred, it remained hidden and unknown to the village people of Kurtoe. It was Later, discovered by Tibetan Buddhist master a well-informed Longchen Rabjam; he is the one who introduced the place to common people.
In the biography of the place said by Ratna-Lingpa; It is said, for the karmically connected person this is a place where one can reach an accomplishment. And for the sinful person, it is a place where one can pay homage and make offerings to cleanse the sinful deeds of all time.
It is also believed as a wishful filling place where one can pray for dream come true but in turn, one must make a promise to serve back at the monastery. We can still see the victory banner and Dharma bell (Gyeltshen and Choedril) at the monastery which was offered by Kushu Dawa Penjor after fulfilling his dreams of becoming the Paro Penlop, when he almost forgot the promise he made, he was reminded by the Lord of treasures "Terdhak Zora Rakhe" appearing in dreams with black dress and hat and speaking about the promise. Some people also say it is a story about Jigme Namgyel and his dream of becoming Trongsa Penlop, not about Kushu Dawa Penjor. So, it stays unsure about who offered the victory banner and Dharma bell there.
Next to the main Shrine there is a white cliff bearing the shape of a stupa with a natural quality of three-story dwelling "Zangtho Pelri " of Guru Padmasambhava, which have 1) Sa Bardho (Ground intermediate state) 2) Nam Bardho (Sky intermediate state) 3) Utse (pinnacle) where one can see lots of facial image of wrathful and peaceful deities, and alphabet of Dakinis. There are also several footprints and caves of Yehsey Tshogyel, Moen Mo Tashi Khe-Doen, Guru Rinpoche, and Pema Lingpa.
In front of the cliff, there is a flat stone with some sacred mantras that are only seen clearly with the rays of sunrise in the morning. If the weather is cloudy during sunrise, one cannot see the sacredness of mantras. The flat stone is known as a Target of Rahul "Drangsong Dza Rahula's Baa" to help the spiritual and happy life of everyone, at least one must visit once.
If you are planning to visit there you must drive for about 3-4 hours from Lhuntse to Kuenzangling monastery, on the way one can visit Dungkar and Khaw Chung monastery where one can see many holy treasures. The Kuenzang Ling monastery is one of the eight Ling or main seats of great Tibetan master Omniscient Longchen Rabjam in Bhutan; it is found on the hill of the Rinchen Bumpa connecting to a village farm road below. Moreover, from there one needs to hike uphill for about 3-4 hours.
It is believed that Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa, who came from Sombrang Gonpa in Bumthang, subdued the demon at Dragong in Minjey, Lhuentse. The Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa, after subduing the demon, blessed the people. In return, the people offered land to the Lama and the place was named Wangzhing or meaning, “land for the blessing”. The legend says that Wangzhing Lhakhang was built by terton Pema Lingpa. It is believed that the people from the nearby villages gathered in this place to receive Wang or empowerment from the Terton Pema Lingpa during the consecration ceremony of the newly constructed Wangzhing Lhakhang. Terton Pema Lingpa initiated diverse Tercham, which can be witnessed even today during the festival.
It is believed that Lam Gyalwa Lhanangpa, who came from Sombrang Gonpa in Bumthang, subdued the demon at Dragong in Minjey, Lhuentse. The Lam, after subduing the demon, blessed the people. In return, the people offered land to the Lam and the place was named Wangzhing meaning, “blessing land”. Later, Terton Pema Lingpa built the Lhakhang and for the consecration ceremony of the newly constructed Lhakhang, Terton initiated diverse Ter Chams (treasure mask Dances), which can be witnessed even today during the festival. Thereafter, the festival came to be known as Wangzhing Rabney, where Wang means blessing, Zhing means land and Rabney means consecration ceremony of newly constructed Lhakhang.
The first day is celebrated with Nubcham by the local community. The Nubcham is held towards the evening of the 24th day of the 7th Month of the Bhutanese calendar. Gonpo and Gonmo are major dances performed on Nubcham day. On the second day, the dance of pig followed by the treasurer dances of Zhana Chams, 12 animals' birth signs dance, and other secret dances are performed. The festival concludes with the dance of three male relatives. As per the local community, these three relatives’ dance concludes the festival, because, during the consecration ceremony of the Temple, three people from other hamlets came to witness the ceremony, but they arrived at the nightfall when the ceremony was about to close.
The three relatives went to visit Terton Pema Lingpa. Terton informed them that the consecration ceremony had already ended, but still, he made these three male relatives conclude the sanctification ceremony, and even today, whoever attains the festival gets the opportunity to witness the dance of the three relatives.
The house of Dungkar, one of the noble lineages from Kurtoe was home to the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyal, the father of the Wangchuck dynasty. Dungkar Naktshang the ancient home of the Dungkar Chojie and the ancestral home of the Wangchuck Dynasty, stands amid a scenic backdrop of towering mountains overlooking the tiny Dungkar village below. There is a 40km dirt road from Lhuentse leading up to Dungkar Lhakhang. The Dungkar expedition is an exciting and magical voyage into Bhutan’s past.
Trashigang (1100 meters)
This easternmost district, which is Bhutan’s largest, is accessible by road from the south and west. It is also home to the Dakpas or nomads, who live in the valleys of Merak and Sakteng.
Places of interest in Trashigang
Built in 1659 as a fortress practically impregnable, being protected on three sides by river and ravines, and from behind by the mountain, it now serves both administrative and religious blocks.
It is 18 kilometers to the north of Trashigang. This valley is beautiful with terraced rice fields and well known for dying and weaving textiles known as ‘burre’. In the past, people in this valley used to rear cocoons for silk. They use only vegetable colors while dying silk. There is also a huge Nyingmapa monastic school known as Rangjung Woesel Choling, located on a hill at Rangung (Radi).
Merak & Sakteng
Here are inhabited by semi-nomadic tribe-men called Brokpa. They mostly depend on yaks; every household family will have a minimum of 100 yaks. They made butter and cheese from yak milk. Brokpa man often comes into Phongmey village and Trashigang to trade. You can recognize them by their sheepskin and yak-hair clothing and unusual yak-hair hat called shamo, which have hanging spider-like legs that act as rain spouts.
Trashiyangtse (1850 meters)
Formally under Trashigang, but separated in early 1990 it borders the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. From Trashigang it takes three hrs to cover 53 kilometers until Trashiyangtse. When the highway was not built, Trashi Yangtse was important because it lay on one of the caravan routes leading from Trashigang through Trashiyangtse, over the high mountains to Lhuntse, and then over Rodung La (4200m) to Bumthang.
Places of interest in Trashiyangtse
Gom Kora temple
At a point 15 kilometers from Trashigang, this temple is one of the famous places where Guru Rimpoche meditated and took the form of Garuda to subdue a demon who dwelt in the big rock. Guru Rinpoche’s imprints are visible on the big rock behind the temple. It is also the venue of the Gom Kora festival, where people from as far as Arunachal in India, walk across high mountains to attend this special event. Two kilometers from Gom Kora, at Doksum, there is an old, abandoned iron chain-link bridge, believed to be the last surviving bridge of those built by Tibetan saint Thangtong Gyalpo.
This gigantic stupa near the river was built in the 18th century as per the prediction of Guru Rimpoche. It is in Nepalese style with eyes painted on all four sides. In early spring, a great religious festival takes place annually at Chorten Kora, where masses of people from all parts of eastern Bhutan and some from as far as Arunachal, India, circumambulate the stupa with prayer beads and whirling wheels, chanting the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hung’.
About an hour's walk north of Chorten Kora, this is the roosting place of a flock of black-necked cranes during winters.
It is a 185 km drive from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar and there are not many important historical places en route, but for bird lovers, this stretch of the journey is the best; besides many other species, the very rare Tragopan the ‘Rufous Necked Hornbill’ can be seen here. Samdrup Jongkhar is a very convenient town for exit to the Indian state of Assam.
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