It is not as big or as well known outside the dzongkhag as its twin, but to the locals, Lhakhang Nagpo (most call it Nam) is no less sacred.
Locals said they don’t differentiate between the two temples.
Gomche, 60, from Haatoe said that the temple is the residence of one of the ferocious deities of the valley, Dado Tsen. “The temple is as much part of our lives as is Lhakhang Karpo,” he said.
A five-minute walk above Lhakhang Karpo, the renovation of which was mired in controversy, which added to its popularity, is a single-storey black temple ribbed with a red band.
Near the temple are two sets of stupas resembling the three mountains, which the locals believe are the embodiment of three Bodhisatvas: Jampelyang on the right, Chenreyzig in the middle, and Chhana Dorji) on the left.
Caretaker Dorji, a local from Samar, said the walls have remained, as they were built, untouched and intact. “The structure is not altered at all,” he said. The debri (mural paintings) covered in curtains, he said, appear faded or in some parts damaged. Some mural paintings by the door are freshly painted but water leakage had damaged it.
The temple stands at the foot of the Chenreyzig Mountain below a gold painted cliff that is believed to the mandala of Yeshey Gonpo. The main statue is Jowo (Buddha) Shakya Muni, flanked by statues of Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Of the increasing number of foreign tourists visiting the temple, the caretaker said, most are fascinated with the lake and the mermaid (tshomen), which is believed to have the power to grant wealth to devotees.
“They make lots of offerings to the lake and the mermaid when we tell them one could be blessed with good fortune,” he said.
The history of how the temple was built is not certain. Haa Lam Neten Jampel Dorji said the temple was built at the same time as Lhakhang Karpo, the more popular one of the two in the 7th Century.
“All stories or myths point to one conclusion that the temples were built like the Jampa lhakhang in Bumthang and Kichu lhakhang in Paro through the magical powers of King Songtsen Gampo,” he said. ‘There are no written records.”
As the night draws close, Dorji returns with a packet of flour and prepares for the evening rituals. The woods above the temple remain silent as if the guardians are waiting to be appeased.
Tshering Palden | Haa