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A one-storey temple is believed to have been sanctified by Lorepa Wangchuk Tsondru in the 12th century
A one-storey temple is believed to have been sanctified by Lorepa Wangchuk Tsondru in the 12th century

Lhakhang in the shadow of Jomolhari

Chimi Dema | Soe

A two-day hard trek from Shana in Paro takes one to some of Bhutan’s most beautiful Alpine meadows. There are no human settlements here. You’ve come face to face with the raw and untamed vastness, the wild nature.

Around the temple are the places blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, Jetsun Milarepa, and Lama Drukpa Kunley
Around the temple are the places blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, Jetsun Milarepa, and Lama Drukpa Kunley

Jomolhari, 7,326msl, the abode of the protector goddess Jomo, is a true celestial paradise.

Towards the latter part of the 1100s, if one had been looking down this majestic abode of a Tsheringma sister, one would have witnessed a rag-tag monk, silhouetted in the evening light, crossing the little stream. Drukpa Kagyu was gaining unparalleled fame and the yogis of the lineage were taking to the snow-clad mountain and far-off caverns for a deeper realisation of truth.

Lorepa Wangchuk Tsondru, the tired monk settled here for a while, meditating in the caves, following the footsteps of Jetsun Milarepa. A temple stands here even today, believed to have been built by Lorepa. Located at the base of three rocky hills representing the Rigsum Goenpo, the lhakhang could be one of the most far-removed and neglected.

The one-storey temple houses some sacred relics related to Drukpa Kagyu. Among them is a foot-tall statue of Gyalwa Lorepa himself, holy scripture written in gold, six aluminium water bowls and an offering lamp.

Legend has it that the golden scriptures were offered to Gyalwa Lorepa by Aum Jomo, the deity of the Dagala range in Thimphu.

As the sun leaves the mountains, the dark accentuates the isolation. No wonder Gyalwa Lorepa found this place ideal for deeper meditation. Here, one can hear the silence.

All that is there about the history of this secluded hermitage of a renowned Drukpa saint today is oral account. Mystery further adds to the significance of the place.

A flood came, long ago. Date and time are lost to us. Could Lorepa have by then reached Bumthang where he established a small monastery there? The flood destroyed the temple, which was later rebuilt. The sacred relics were not lost—a foot-tall statue of Gyalwa Lorepa himself, holy scriptures written in gold, six aluminium water bowls and an offering lamp.

Locals say that around this temple are the places blessed by Guru Padmasambhava, Jetsun Milarepa, and Lama Drukpa Kunley. There are meditation caves of Guru Padmasambhava and Gyalwa Lorepa and Guru’s holy water, among others.

There are also prints of dungkar and sernya on the rocks beside the lhakhang. The lhakhang’s lam, Namgay, said  they symbolise offerings to the Rigsum Goenpo. An hour’s climb up the alpine shrubs, on the scree, there is the Tsheringma Lhatsho, the spirit lake of Tsheringma.

Not many people visit the lhakhang. In summer, it remains totally cut-off because of the swelling stream, a tributary of Pachhu.

Lam Namgay said that after the annual Jomolhari festival began in 2013, a few started coming to the lhakhang. The lhakhang was taken care of by the Soe community in the past. In 2015, it was surrendered to Zhung Dratsang.

The lhakhang and the lam benefit the community although far-removed from the human settlements.

The lhakhang got electricity in 2016. But without a cellular service, Lam Namgay said it was inconvenient for caretaker.

TashiCell is installing cellular network in the area.

Because the lhakhang is located far from the nearest human settlement and remains closed for the better part of the year, security is the one of the biggest challenges. There have been accounts of destruction even by wild animals.

And, with warming climate, the threat of glacial lake outburst is ever present.

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