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
The waterfall near the Senge Phu in Taktsang is called Shelkar Zar (ཤེལ་དཀར་གཟར). It is called Shelkar Zar because the crystal water descends from the cliff resembling the throne on which Guru Rinpoche transmitted dharma to Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal. There is Khandro’s knees imprint on the middle of the cliff where she received the dharma. Hence the waterfall resembles Guru plucking his crystal bead and bestowing it to Khandro for sanctification; it is named in that sense.
As from another saying; the cliff left to Taktsang is a place where Guru transmitted dharma to Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal. Since Guru bestowed his crystal prayer beads to Khandro, thus the name Shelkar Zar.
The water descending from the cliff is believed to be the holy water of a hundred thousand Dakini (མཁའ་འགྲོ་འབུམ་གྱི་སྒྲུབ་ཆུ). The source is said to be at Bumdrak.
It is further said that His Eminence Late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche claimed Shelkar Zar Drubchu as sanctified and took a portrait near it.
Source: ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SACRED SITES, Paro Dzongkhag, vol. VIII
Singye Dzong is located in Khoma Gewog under Lhuntse District, and it falls within the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. It is 3800m above sea level. The Dzong stands on the cliff resembling a lion, hence the name Singye Dzong.
Guru Rinpoche’s consort Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal found the Dzong in the 8th century.
Guru Rinpoche meditated in the cave during his second visit to Bhutan via Tibet and left Kurje (body imprint). Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal also left mystical imprints on the cave after perfecting Vajrakilaya. It is believed that any person who visits Singye Dzong will be liberated once from the hell.
Among the sacred places visited and blessed by Padmasambhava that signifies: body, speech, mind, knowledge, and deed—Singye Dzong represent the deed (ཕྲིན་ལས་ཀྱི་གནས་ཆེན་མོན་ཁ་ནེ་རིང་སེང་གེ་རྫོང་).
Guru also mentioned about 15 different treasures hidden at Singye Dzong in his prophecy (མོན་ཁ་སྣ་རིང་སེང་གེ་རྫོང་གསུམ་ལ༔ མ་ནིང་གཏེར་ཀ་ཕྲ་གཏེར་བཅོ་ལྔ་སྦས༔).
There are eight significant Dzongs embedded on a cliff. These 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་). Each Dzong has its respective crematorium in the form of rocks. These Dzongs are believed to be the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche.
The Singye Dzong surrounding has mysterious landmarks such as Guru and Khandro’s footprints; rocks representing Rigsum Goenpo (Manjushri, Vajrapani and Avalokitesvara), holy water, natural replica of Manjushri’s sword and scriptures; 108 Vajra treasures and 21 Tara treasures, and the mystical rock below Tse-mo Dzong where Guru confined 108 Ja-chung (Garuda) which tried to cause a catastrophe in the world. It is impossible to mention all those sacred landmarks.
The temple adjacent to Gawa Dzong house sacred treasures discovered by Guru Rinpoche from Singye Dzong Lake. There are five Phurpa (ritual daggers), Chorten (tiny stupas), three statues and a pair of Dorje (vajra). Dorji and statutes are the main treasures of Rolmoter Lhakhang (རོལ་མོ་གཏེར་ལྷ་ཁང་།). Guru Rinpoche discovered statutes from Phugmachin (ཕུག་མ་ཅན) cave.