Dangchu’s Wangchu (དྭངས་ཆུའི་དབང་ཆུ) is a popular retreat site for hot stone bath owing to numerous health benefits.
The holy water was revealed by the second Je Khenpo — Khenchen Sonam Yoezer in 17ᵗʰ century while consecrating the memorial stupa (Chubar Chöeten) of the incarnation of Terton Dorji Lingpa.
During the consecration ceremony, Chab Je solemnized wang (Abhishekha) for the people. He asked them to fetch water beneath the Cypress tree for Thruechu (holy water). The people informed Cha Je about the non-availability of water, but Chab Je insisted them to fetch water; surprisingly, they discovered a streamlet beneath Tsenden Shing (cypress).
Thus, the name Dangchu’s Wangchu (དྭངས་ཆུའི་དབང་ཆུ) as the streamlet was revealed during wang.
Folk also believe it to be Guru Rinpoche’s Drubchu (healing miraculous water).
Dangchu’s Wangchu is around 25 km from Nobding, Wangdue Phodrang.
Thongdrel means “liberation by sight.” According to a Buddhist belief, a person’s negative karma can be purged by getting a glimpse of it. མིག་ཏོ་གིས་མཐོང་བ་ཙམ་ཅིག་གིས་ངན་སོང་གསུམ་ལས་གྲོལ་ཚུགས་པའི་རྟེན།
Thongdrel is mostly made of silk—depicting the image of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, Zhabdrung or Buddhist gods. It is unveiled during auspicious occasions such as Tsechu (religious festivals), consecration of temples, holy days and noble birth. It is stored rolled up at other times.
Following are Thongdrel displayed during auspicious occasions:
I am fortunate to get a glimpse of these Thongdrel during their respective festivals.
Doteng valley is an adytum for sacral sites such as Chumo Phu, Shala Dra, Chidhue Goenpa, Ragoe Ney and Soelchu Phu in Paro.
Ragoe Ney is ensconced in a craggy hill and it is revered as the second Zangdhopelri by the noble ancestors. (གནས་ཡིག་ལསཿ གནས་འདི་ཟངས་མདོག་དཔལ་རི་གཉིས་པ་ཞེས། །རྒྱལ་བ་གོང་མ་རྣམས་ཀྱི་ཡང་ཡང་བསྔགས། །)
As per the sacred text: the dark cliff faces south and have a crescent shape—the top of the hill resembles wearing a hat; the base of the cliff is as beautiful as the lotus. The cliff was blessed by Guru Rinpoche as Baeyul. (བྲག་ནི་ནག་པོ་ཁ་ནི་ལྷོ་ལ་བལྟས། །དབྱིབས་ནི་ཟླ་གམ་མགོ་ནི་ཞྭ་ལྟར་ཕུབ། །གཤམ་ནི་པདྨོ་ལྟ་བུ་རབ་ཏུ་མཛེས། །) It is called Ragoe Ney because the pathway to the sacred site was initially revealed by the Goat and Vulture. A depiction of Goat and Vulture can be seen on the way, along with icons of Gurus hat and footprint; sacred site entrance key, Selwatsel crematorium, Dakinis footprints and ritual dagger.
The cliff resembles Guru Dorje Drolö and Drakmar. The left side of the cliff iconizes Garuda and deity Terdhak Gyalpo and the water dripping from the cliff is deities nasal drip. There is also naturally emanated stupa at the girth of the cliff and imagery of serpent—subdued by Guru.
There is a Lam Namkhai Nyingpo’s meditation cave at the midsection of the cliff and naturally emanated Hum on top of the cliff. A person can attain Buddhahood—praying at the Hum syllable site. (དུས་གསུམ་རྒྱལ་བ་ཀུན་གྱི་ཆོས་ཉིད་ཐུགས། །ཡི་གེ་ཧཱུཾ་གི་སྣང་བ་གསལ་པོར་བྱོན། །དེ་ལ་སྨོན་ལམ་ཡང་ཡང་འདེབས་ནུས་ན། །ཚེ་འདིར་རྫོགས་སངས་རྒྱས་པའི་ཡི་གེ་ཡིན། །)
There are two temples at Ragoe Ney. The mainstay of the lower temple is the speaking Guru statue sculpted by Pentsa Deva in the 17 century. The cave has naturally emanated images of Tiger, Leopard, Bear and Dakini’s scriptures.
The upper temple was built by Lopen Tsewang Tenzin after seeing Guru while he was reciting the Vajra Guru mantra. It has Guru Ugyen Dorji as the main statue. There is also Dakini’s cave and hermitages above the temple.
Lhading Temple is perched on the heart of a panoramic ridge—overlooking Tsento valley.
As per the Lhodruk Chiejung by Geshey Gendün Rinchen: In 1267-1326, a high caste lady—hailing from Sakya dynasty—Meto Selden, and a great Drubthop Pavo Taksham visited Bhutan along with a couple of retinues. While pilgriming, the entourage camped at Zangthang (ཟངས་ཐང་): present-day Zamsar in Tsento, Paro.
Drupthob dreamt of flying gods and goddesses in the demesne of a forested ridge at dawn; knowing this prophetic sign, Drubthop visited the place and named Lhading (flying gods demesne). He spent the wealth of the princess to construct the Temple.
The statue of Jowo Shakyamuni is the mainstay of the Temple. The large sutra scripture steals the show because it is a belief that if one can lift the scripture and circumambulate inside the temple—one’s karmic defilements can be cleansed.
There is Drupchu (holy water) below the Temple.
The Temple is around 25 kiliometeres drive from Drukgyal Dzong.
Drukgyal Dzong was built in 1649 by the second Druk Desi—La Ngoenpa Tenzin Drukda (1602-1667) as a mark of glory from Tibetan forces. The Tibetan government of Gadhen Phodrang allied by Hor (Mongols) forces launched unsuccessful invasion against Zhabdrung Rinpoche in 1648. La Ngoenpa’s forces comprised of Dzongpoens and their warriors aided by militias—triumphed. Hence, Drukgyal Dzong rose.
Unfortunately, fire engulfed the entire structure in 1951, however, the Dzong is rebuilt to its former glory signifying the birth of DrukGyalsey Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck (05.02.2016).
The Dzong stands majestically on the ridge overlooking the north Paro.
Chung-neyGoenpa (ཁྱུང་གནས་དགོན་པ) aka ChungduGoenpa (monastery) is located above Katekha village in Sha Phangyuel, Wangdue Phodrang—barely half an hour drive from the Gewog Centre via farm road.
Chung means Garuda; Ney means abode—an abode of Garuda.
The Goenpa was founded by Drubthob (yogi) Thinley Pema. The three-story monastery houses sacred Buddhist text, ancient statues of Buddhist saints and Guru Sung Joen (speaking Guru statue) as the mainstay. It also has an effigy of local deity Thinley Zam.
The monastery is perched on the hill above Phuensum Deki school. On the heart of the hill lies the meditational cave where Guru Rinpoche invoked Garuda thereby subdued the dreadful local spirits.
Earlier, there was a naturally formed rock resembling Garuda, but it was taken—breaking the rock.
The cave is said to be holy and therefore if one devotionally recites Vajra Guru mantra, one can observe holy water droppings (བདུད་རྩི) from the rocks. Some folks claim that the holy water has a healing effect when used on the harm inflicted by dreadful naga & local spirits (ཀླུ་གཉན་དང་ས་བདག). There is also naturally formed—the sun and moon-shaped rocks in front of the cave. A hollow rock on the right side of the cave is to examine persons virtuous and unvirtuous deeds (དགེ་སྡིག་ཤན་ཕྱེ་ས). The bowl-shaped rock on the left side of the cave is said to be Guru’s bathtub.
Chung-ney Goenpa faces ecologically abundant Sha Bjena valley. Sha: Kazhi Nyisho and Rubesa can be spotted as well at the far end and also some parts of Sha Chitokha.
The view is extraordinarily enchanting—heavenly feel!
The eight significant Dzong(s) embedded on cliffs at Singye Dzong are Singye Dzong, Tsemo Dzong (རྩེ་མོ་རྫོང་), Rinchen Dzong (རིན་ཆེན་རྫོང་), Gawa Dzong (དགའ་བ་རྫོང་), Dhuelwa Dzong (འདུལ་བ་རྫོང་), Dorji Dzong (རྡོ་རྗེ་རྫོང་), Namkha Dzong (གནམ་ཁ་རྫོང་) and Pema Dzong (པདྨ་རྫོང་).
These sacred Dzongs have its respective crematorium in the form of rocks. These Dzongs signifies Guru Tsengyed (eight manifestations).
It takes a day to visit all the Dzongs. Pema Dzong and Namkha Dzong are the farthest. Trek to Namkha Dzong is not recommended for frail and acrophobic because of vertical trail and steepness—a single misstep might prove fatal. Nevertheless, view from Namkha Dzong is mind-boggling—it’s worth the risk.
After exploring ins and outs of Singye Dzong, I peregrinated to Roelmoteng: a serene village with a few farmhouses of the nomad. Rolmoter Lhakhang (temple) bucolically faces magnificent waterfall from luxuriant foliage ridge. It is a replica of the Ugyen Heruka temple (ཨྱོན་ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་).
As per Ney-yik (sacred site description): entire surrounding of the Lhakhang is Bae-nay (hidden sacred place) of Ugyen Maha Guru. Therefore, any person who sees, hears and visualises the Lhakhang can cleanse their defilements and get a blessing.
Pilgrimizing Phugmachen(ཕུག་མ་ཅན) and Sharcho Pelriphug (ཤར་ཕྱོགས་དཔལ་རི་ཕུག) takes eight hours gruelling trek—traversing alpine shrub and meadows; rivers and streams.
Phugmachen is premised in idyllic place—conserving: hermitage and stupas; replicas of pig-head, golden clarinet (གསེར་གྱི་རྒྱ་གླིང་) and Guru’s hat on the wall of the cave. One stupa is a Kudung chorten (memorial stupa) of a yogini Machig Labdrön’s (མ་གཅིག་ལབ་སྒྲོན) son. He was cremated on the hilltop of Singye Dzong, and thereupon, his remains were placed inside the stupa. There is also Drupchu (holy water) at the base of the cave.
Sharcho Pelriphug is tucked on the opposite side of the hill on the way to Phugmachen. It is Tsei-druphu (lifespan meditation cave) where Guru meditated. Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal meditated on the stone seat inside the cave. It is believed that praying inside the cave can prolong one’s lifespan.
There is also Zangdopelri (heavenly abode) embedded on the rock and other sacred idols within the premises of Rolmoter Lhakhang.
From Roelmateng, I shinned down to Denchung village, and then to Khoma. I navigated to the sacred cave where Guru secretly meditated for six months (གསང་བ་ཟླ་དྲུག) and other sites at Khoma. The religious sites of Guru extend from Singye Dzong till Khoma. So, pilgrims must conclude—visiting those sites at Khoma after Singye Dzong.
Singye Dzong trek starts from Khoma village—the fons et origo of Kishuthara. It is a three-day journey with a two-night halt. Every trekker has to undergo mandatory health checkups at Khoma BHU as the trek is arduous and trekker often suffer from La-duk (Acute Mountain Sickness). A trekker must get route permit from Khoma Gewog Office since the place is near to Bhutan-Tibetan border.
I embarked on my journey in a pickup Bolero from Khoma till Khing Dung (ཁིང་གདུང) with other pilgrims. From there, we packed our luggage on a pony; thus, 21.9 km first-day trek began along the left side of Khoma-chu—tramping through subtropical broadleaf vegetation. It is seven to eight-hour trek till the first-night halt camp at Tsekang (ཚིག་བཀང་). The popular lunch point is at Chang-shing Dung (ལྕང་ཤིང་གདུང་), however, we had our lunch at Nyala Pang (ཉ་ལ་སྤང་) and, halt the night at Denchung (གདན་ཆུང་) village in a hospitable farmhouse. The trekkers can also halt at Khomagang village in case of fatigue, as Denchung and Tsekang are a bit far.
The 13.5 km second-day trek towards Thang Karmo (ཐང་དཀར་མོ) began with a bright sunshine. The chirping birds, fresh air, and lush green forest boosted our stamina to trek for another six hours. We had our lunch at Chuna (ཆུ་གནག)—the winter pastureland of the nomad. Thereafter, we climbed knolls, crossed several streams, and reached Thang Karmo: our second-night halt camp. There are two spacious wooden guest houses built solely for pilgrims, but without solar power or electricity. The telecommunication is also unavailable from Chuna, nevertheless, it is complete bliss sans social media distractions.
The third-day trek, which is 16.5 km from Thang-Karmo to Singye Dzong, takes 5 hours—penetrating through the sub-alpine forest. The lunch point is at Doksum (དོག་གསུམ) at the junction of Singye Dzong and Roelmoteng (རོལ་མོ་སྟེང་) route.After trudging via Tachet-Michet (རྟ་ཆད་མི་ཆད) trail, finally, we reached Singye Dzong. We prostrated from Chaktsel gang (ཕྱག་འཚལ་སྒང་) before setting our foot on the sacred place. We camped three days at Singye Dzong and hiked to all the Dzongs, sacred sites including Tsokar-Tsonak (མཚོ་དཀར་དང་མཚོ་གནག), and Terdha Latso (གཏེར་བདག་བླ་མཚོ). It was an adventurous pilgrimage as we hiked from dawn to dusk each day in extremely pleasant weather. I recommend mid-August to mid-September as the ideal time for pilgrimage as the monsoon gets dried and winter is afar. However, by the last week of October, trekking towards lakes seems impassable because of frost and snow.Singye Dzong from Chaktsel gangTsokarTsonakTerdha LatsoThe ridge believed to be 108 stupasAmazing pilgrims