Whenever I travel from Thimphu to Paro or vice-versa, I have always seen Tachog Lhakhang beautifully perching hilltop on other side of tranquil Paro River. But it has always remained as a feast of my eyes. I couldn’t visit it physically to say my prayers and explore its historical wonders.
It was only after I visited Phudro Goemba few months back, I was inspired to visit Tachog Lhakhang. I came to know that Lam Thangthong flew from Phudro Goemba and landed at Tachog Lhakhang at one point of time. Therefore, my visit to this temple was to get its historical relationship with Phudro Goemba.
There is no road till its doorsteps. So we left our car at a parking and continue on foot. However, it didn’t take us more than 10 minutes. Moreover, the joy of crossing Pachu over an old suspension bridge was quite an experience. It was like walking through history of building bridges in Bhutan.
However, the iron bridge built by Lam Thangthong has become quite old. Some of my travel mates felt uncomfortable walking over that old quirky iron bridge. They chose a new suspension bridge over the old iron bridge. I also felt it’s safer.
The history of Tachog Lhakhang
In mid 14th century, Lam Thangthong Gyalpo become popular in Tibet due to his craftsmanship in building iron bridges. When his bridges could connect many villages in Tibet, the local deities of Paro and Haa invited him to Bhutan.
He came to Bhutan and started building similar bridges that connected villages after villages. He travelled across the country in search of raw materials for making iron chains. During travel, it’s said that he also gave teachings.
Bhutan history has that Lam Thangthong has actually built more than 58 iron bridges across the country. However, only one or two survived thus far. And one of them is the one that is at Tachog Lhakhang.
Lam Thangthog has mediated at the present location of Tachog Lhakhang. During meditation, he experienced visions that inspired him to build a temple and name it as Tachog Lhakhang. However, he couldn’t built a temple.
When he was meditating at Phudro Goemba, he saw a woman with unusual inner beauty at current location of Tachog Lhakhang. It was only then he went there flying from Phudro Goemba. He met the woman and few years down the line, she bore him three sons.
Dewa Zangpo, the eldest son of Lam Thangthog actually fulfilled his father’s wish and built Tachog Lhakhang. In oral traditions, nothing much is there about other two sons. It was Dewa Zangpo who built the temple and started a family of Tachog Choeji. The descendants of Dewa Zangpo still look after this temple.
Main Relics of Tachog Lhakhang
The main relics of this temple are the statues of Lord Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, Chenrizig (Avaloketeshvara) and Zhabdrung. We can also see stack of ancient books; Kangjur and Tenjur inside main shrine room of the temple.
Since this temple was started by Dewa Zangpo, we can also see his statue as main relic along with that of Lam Jampel and Chana Dorji (Vajrapani). There is also a walking stick of Lam Thangthong.
Festivals at Tachog Lhakhang
I was told that Tachog Lhakhang conducts festivals and rituals. Its festival is organised once a year. And since it’s not a national holiday on that particular date, only few Bhutanese can make there during its Tshechu.
I also have never attended its Tsechu. So I cannot comment on its events and dances. However, the caretaker told me that many of the mask dances performed at Tachog Lhakhang are unique and are nowhere in Bhutan.
During Tshechu, monks and Gomchens also come together in reading Kanjur and Tenjur for the well-being of all sentient beings. And they also conduct Bum De during third month of Bhutanese calendar and death anniversary of Dewa Zangpo in ninth month every year. They also perform mask dances during these events. But I didn’t attend any of these events.
Make your trip interesting
Tourists who are strictly on pilgrimage won’t like this. Pilgrims just get inside the temple, say prayers, make offerings and then come out. But many at times, tourists don’t love only to get inside the temple but also want to have visual experiences of capturing photos from different angles.
If you are someone like this, just go little bit above the temple. There is a walking trail and on its end, you have a viewpoint from where you can shoot photos of Tachog Lhakhang. Some of the images I have shared here were taken from this viewpoint.
If you travel from Thimphu, it will take you about 40 minutes to reach Tachog Lhakhang. However, it is quite nearer to Paro town. So from Paro, it will take you about 25 minutes. And one thing I would like to suggest is to visit it during early hours of a day. I visited it at last hours which didn’t favour my objective of getting good landscape photography of Tachog Lhakhang.
This temple is looked after by descendants of Dewa Zangpo. It’s neither under central monastic body of Bhutan or other government agencies. Therefore, there is no explicit official opening and closing timings for Tachog Lhakhang.
However, for the convenience of caretakers it would be better you visit after 9.00 a.m and before 5.00 p.m. And during public holidays like Thimphu Tshechu and Paro Tshechu, it would be better you don’t plan trip there. People who take care of the temple would be out.
In conclusion, Tachog Lhakhang may not be as majestic as Paro Taktshang and Dzongdrakha but it’s equally rich with historical anecdotes which ultimately tell history of Bhutan. When you visit this temple, you are actually availing a lifetime opportunity of personally seeing 900 years old iron bridge that was built before the dawn of building bridges in the world.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- Trekking to Great Dungtsho – Bhutan’s lake amidst Rocky Castles.
- Pangri Zampa Monastery – College of Bhutanese Astrology.
- Less Tourists place of Thimphu – Drolung Goemba.
- Dzongdrakha Temple, which looks similar to Taktshang.
- Hidden Temple of Thimphu – Trashigang Goemba.
- Place of interest in Thimphu – Dodedrak Goemba.
- Faces that will interest you to travel Bhutan.
- Tango Monastery & Drolung Goemba – a day’s hike in Thimphu.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- Royal Botanical Park of Bhutan at Lampelri, a nice place to visit.