Dzongs (fortress), Lhakhangs (temples) and chortens (stupas) are sprinkled all over the Bhutanese landscape. The tranquilizing chime of bells from the prayer wheels echoes in the valleys of Bhutan. These religious structures are soaked in myths and history, which makes them – extraordinary and revered.
In our 12 days trip to Western Bhutan, we visited few of these gorgeous looking temples and monasteries. Here’s a glimpse:
The gigantic Punakha Dzong was the second Dzong built in Bhutan and perhaps the most beautiful of all. Standing at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in Punakha; it was built in 1637, by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. It was the seat of Bhutan’s government until Thimphu was established as the new capital in 1955.
Taktshang Monastery a.ka. Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous monastery. Aberrantly hanged on the edge of a 1000m cliff in the Paro Valley, it makes an impressive sight. The temple was built in 1692, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche said to have meditated for three years in the 8th century.
Chimi Lhakhang or Mad Man Monastery is situated on a hillock in the Punakha Valley. It was built in 1499 by Ngawang Choegyel, in honor of Drukpa Kunley a.k.a. Divine Madman after he subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” and trapped it in a rock and buried at the location where the monastery now stands. Chimi Lhakhang is renowned for its fertility blessings.
Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest and most sacred shrine is situated in the Paro Valley. The temple was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songsten Gampo. It is considered to be one of the 108 temples built by him to subdue a demon that prevented the spread of Buddhism.
The Grand, Rinchen Pung Dzong is one of Bhutan’s most impressive monastery and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture. The present dzong was built in 1644 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal after he dismantled the then existing Dzong built by Drung Gyal in 15th century, which was known as Hungrel Dzong.
Gangtey Goemba, situated on a hilltop at the edge of Gangtey village in Phobjikha Valley. It is an important monastery of Nyingmapa school of Buddhism. The monastery was built in the 17th century and is home of Gangtey Tulku, a highly respected reincarnate lama. It is also said to be the pilgrimage for the winter visitors in the valley – Black necked cranes that pay their homage by circling the monastery three times on arrival and repeating the same when returning to their homeland.
The picturesque and small Khewang Lhakhang (temple) is located in midst of wide spread marshlands of the Phobjikha valley. The temple was built in the 15th century by Trulku Penjor Gyeltshen who was believed to be an incarnation of the great Tibetan nyingmapa master Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjampa. It is said that the Trulku hired sculptors and labourers from Tibet and built the temple in the Tibetan style.
Khuruthan Lhakhang, a newly built temple is not very popular. It was built by queen’s mother and consecrated in 2005. In the complex there’s a large nepali style chorten said to be built by an Indian guru.
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