When we were studying about different kinds of non-virtuous acts of Buddhism and their related parables in high school, my Dzongkha teacher has mentioned about Dongkola Lhakhang or Dzongkola temple. For Bhutanese, it is Neychen Dongkola.
He said that if we travel to Dongkola temple in Paro, we will know what would happen if we attempt to take away anything that’s not ours; consequences of stealing.
Our teacher was saying that a person who once tried to take away a bronze vessel of Dongkola Goemba had to leave without his hand at dawn as it got stuck with the container. He said, “The same hand is still at Neychen Dongkola.”
I am sure many of us must have got the message on why we should refrain from stealing. But more than that, I was curious. A wish to visit Dongkola Goemba to see that hand, touch it and feel its texture came up in me.
However, it was only last month I made to Dongkola temple. I got the chance to see and feel the hand which my Dzongkha teacher referred then as a proof for a consequence of stealing. It’s still attached with the vessel.
I feel this hand is one of the best tourist attractions of Dongkola Temple. I saw many tourists asking whereabouts of that hand as soon as they enter the temple.
So much Dongkola Goemba has an interesting story behind that hand, it also has other arguable stories of how a statue discovered by Tertoen Pema Lingpa out of Mebartsho came flying, how 108 Vajras reached there and how its Guru Statue spoke when people tried taking it away to another place.
And for onlooking travellers, it’s also one of the few temples in Bhutan that offers geographical landscape views in 360. We can also see Airbus of DrukAir and Bhutan Airlines flying at a level just lower than us during descends and take-offs from Paro International Airport.
History of Dongkola Lhakhang
On the present location of Dongkola, one night Lam Drungdrung Rinchen Chedhor saw a butter-lamp-lit like light distinctively flickering. It was actually from Mendrub Goemba and his meditation centre, he saw this light.
The light appeared for every night of numerous following days. He asked few of his disciples to see for it. When none could spot anything how much they searched for it, he then sent his closest disciple Tshering Dorji to check for it once more.
Tshering Dorji returned with a small statue of Lord Buddha which was reported to have kept on a rock supported by a wooden tripod in the middle of a clean lake.
Lam Rinchen later knew that statue is the one revealed from Bumthang Mebartsho by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, his personal spiritual adviser.
It was few years before, powerful Chhoekhor Deb commanded Tertoen Pema Lingpa to discover treasures from Bumthang Mebartsho (Burning Lake). Chhoekhor Deb’s intent was to challenge Tertoen Pema Lingpa and intentionally trivialize his treasures.
Tertoen Pema Lingpa once again got into deep Mebartsho. He then came out with a metallic box. Chhoekhor Deb upon drawing out his sword furiously from the shield to crash the box into useless pieces; three small statues of Buddha flew into different directions.
Therefore, one of the statues thus flown landed at Neychen Dongkola. It’s believed that other two escaped to Bumthang Jakar Dzong and Yakgang Goemba of Mongar.
I wonder if they are still there. Lam Rinchen Choedhor then consequently conferred Tshering Dorji with the title of Tertoen – Treasures Revealer.
Tertoen Tshering Dorji, in 16th century built a temple on the spot where he found the statue of Lord Buddha. He named Dongkola as it faces Mendrub Goemba; the meditation centre of his spiritual teacher Lam Rinchen Choedhor.
Some Bhutanese however argue that it got the name Dongkola as it appears face to face anywhere from Paro, Wangdue and Thimphu.
Treasures at Dongkola Goemba
Dongkola is ‘Nyechen Dongkola’ in many Buddhist scriptures, Nye Yigs, ancient literature and folk songs of Bhutan. Nyechen is the highest title given to a place according to the degree of its sacredness.
No temple or monastery in Bhutan has this title. Therefore for people who are on pilgrimage to Bhutan, which place would be better place to visit than Neychen Dongkola of Paro?
The statue of Lord Buddha that came flying from Bumthang Mebartsho is said to be ‘Thongwa Doendrup’ meaning wish-fulfilling at sight. Therefore, it attracts thousands of pilgrims every month.
Its 108 Vajras are said to have come to Dongkola Lhakhang flying out of a nearby lake. A Guru Padmasambhava statue inside Neychen Dongkola is a ‘Sungjoenma’ meaning a statue that has spoken.
Tertoen Tshering Dorji has also left his footprint on a slab of stone. It is inside the main temple. There are also two large timeless butter lamps which are suppose to remain lit 24×7. They are brightly burning during my visit.
Not to mention about the hand of a vandal who tried to take away temple’s vessel, Dongkola Temple also has a furiously standing statue of its Tandin – the protective guardian of Neychen Dongkola.
Therefore, Neychen Dongkola is still main temple of offering for people of Wangdue, Thimphu and Paro. I feel all tourists travelling to Bhutan also deserve to visit Dongkola Lhakhang.
Travel to Dongkola Lhakhang
If you want to travel by car, you can start the journey from Paro Shaba. Though the road is rough, it’s quite spacious to be pliable even for light vehicles. It takes about 3 hours to get there from Paro Shaba.
During rainy season, part of the road above Dra Karpo might turn bit problematic – muddy and slippery. Therefore, if you travel to Dongkola Goemba by car you need to plan your travel according to weather conditions.
However, optionally you can reach to Neychen Dongkola from Namseling by hiking. But I don’t have experience. So I don’t exactly know the nature of the hiking trail. Local people who frequently visit Dongkola following that trail say it takes at least 5 hours to reach there.
If you follow the latter trail, you’ll land up visiting only the Dongkola Temple. All other tourist attractions near Dongkola Lhakhang are midway of former trail i.e road.
And moreover, descend from Neychen Dongkola via former trail would be knee-wrenching so much it would be back-breaking during ascend from Thimphu Namseling.
If you don’t have a medium private vehicle, you can hire a taxi. I also hired Bolero taxi from Thimphu Changlingmithang Taxi Parking. It was Nu.6,000 in a round trip which comes to Nu.750 per person. But if you start from Paro, the cost will be less.
Temples near Dongkola Temple
If you plan your travel to Dongkola Lhakhang via Namseling by hiking, you can visit only Dongkola Temple in a day. There are no other tourist attractions midways.
All other tourists attractions near Dongkola Goemba are along Shaba-Dongkola Road. This means if you travel Dongkola Goemba following the road, you can visit following tourist attractions near Dongkola Lhakhang:
- Mendrub Goemba.
- Phudro Goemba.
- Dra Karpo.
- Dra Karpo Temple.
Mendrub Goemba, Phudro Goemba and Dongkola Lhakhang are on geographically triangle edge to each other. Phudro Goemba is where Lam Thangthong meditated and then flew to Tacho Lhakhang near Chuzom.
Mendrub Goemba is the personal meditation site of Lam Drungdrung Rinchen Choedhor; spiritual teacher of Tertoen Tshering Dorji (founder of Dongkola Temple).
You can also see a stone bowl from where Lam Drungdrung extracted medicine that saved people of the locality from a dangerous epidemic during his time. Thus is the name Mendrub Goemba.
Dra Karpo is a huge mound where people make 108 rounds to forsake their negative deeds. Bhutanese of almost all walks come to make rounds. And few meters from that mound is Dra Karpo Lhakhang where you can make offerings and say prayers.
Neychen Dongkola for Tourists?
People who venture to Neychen Dongkola boost about their experiences of undertaking a hike through unparalleled scenery and adventuresome trails.
They can be right. The rugged, mountainous backdrops, heavenly views and distant captivating farmland and its seclusion, all tell the chronicles of Dongkola Lhakhang.
There is one popular Bhutanese folk song where a mother calls her daughter at Dongkola Goemba to enjoy distant view of Thimphu and Paro. It’s one of the best viewpoints in Bhutan where visitors get to enjoy lots of views.
Its hilltop location facilitates views of Paro valley, Jomolhari Mountain, Zemala, Hosharla, Bumdra, Dochula, Trashigang Goemba, Kilila, Dagala, Namgayla and Thimphu valley.
We can also enjoy the views of hills as far as Kikila in Bumthang. There is a story of how Paro Penlop Tshering Penjore would convey his well being by making smoke at Dongkola. His mother would receive by making smoky fire at Bumthang Kikila.
When you are visiting Neychen Dongkola, you are actually travelling to see one of the finest and oldest temples of Bhutan that has survived thus far when many of its sisters were lost to wars and natural disasters.
Dongkola Goemba is indeed an epitome of Bhutanese history. It still doesn’t fail in telling myriad stories of Bhutan’s past culture and traditions.
Travelling to Dongkola Goemba is like going back to medieval Bhutan. There are also many tourists attractions near Dongkola Lhakhang which also share many exciting stories of past Bhutan.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- Bumdeling – The winter residence of Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- Zhuk Drak Temple – Taktshang Lhakhang in Bumthang?
- Tachog Lhakhang – Temple of Bhutan’s 900+ years old Bridge.
- Travel Punakha to Experience white river rafting in Bhutan.
- Mystical Mebartsho or the Burning Lake of Bumthang.
- Eastern Bhutan Travel – My Experiences at Yonphula Airport.
- The secrets of Tiger Nest Monastery (Taktshang) Hike.
- Bumthang Travel – The experiences and stories of a traveller.
- 10 top tourist attractions of Gangtey Valley.
- The largest Guru Nangsi Zilnon statue -Travel Map to Lhuentse Takila.