Tharpaling Gonpa

Tharpaling monastery located at 3,600m is composed of a series of buildings overlooking the Chhume valley. A rough road starting from the Gyetsa village on the Trongsa-Jakar highway leads to the monastery in half an hour but it is often cut in summer.

Otherwise Tharpaling can be reached on a 3 hour walk from Gyetsa village or on a 3 hour steep walk from Lamey Gonpa in Choekhor, crossing a pass above Choedrak monastery.

Tharpaling was, it seems, first established by Lorepa (1187–1250), a Drukpa Kagyupa lama from Tibet. The temple that he is said to have founded is a small building, lower than the main complex.

In the 14th century, another temple was founded by Longchen Rabjam, the great philosopher of the Dzogchen, a religious movement of the Nyingmapa school.

Longchen Rabjam (1308–1363) had to flee Tibet and lived in exile in Bumthang for almost ten years. He built several temples there, including Tharpaling built in 1352.

Tharpaling was restored several times but most notably by the First King at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The monastery prospered and was always an active centre for Nyingmapa teachings. In 1985, a monastic school (Jangchub Choeling shedra) was founded above the main complex. There are about 20 cells for monks.

The Eight Chortens commemorating events of the life of the Buddha (Chorten Degye) below the main complex are recent and were consecrated in 2001.

Higher up, a new temple, Dzambala lhakhang, has been built in the early 2000s to house the memorial chorten of the great master Nyoshul Khenpo (1932–1997) by his wife Ani Damchoe.

Architectural style / school and related art works
The original small temple contains paintings of Lorepa and of Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of the Drukpa school, and the restoration dates perhaps, from the 19th century.

The Tharpaling main building houses two temples.The temple on the ground floor called the Tshogkhang, is adorned with statues of Longchen Rabjam, Guru Rinpoche, Trisong Detsen, the eighth century Tibetan king who requested Guru to subjugate the deities of Tibet, Shantarikshita (Shiwatso), the Indian monk first invited to build Samye monastery in Tibet, as well as the great 18th century master Jigme Lingpa.

The small temple on the upper floor was restored in the time of the First King, Ugyen Wangchuck. It contains very beautiful paintings of the paradise of Amitabha; also of Longchen Rabjam, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, and Guru Dewa, a rarely-seen form of Guru Rinpoche. The principal statues are those of Samantabhadra, Guru Rinpoche and Longchen Rabjam.

The assembly hall of the monastic school with beautiful paintings of the Sixteeen Arhats and the lineage of Longchen Rabjam, is well worth seeing.

Social cultural function
The monastery is an important religious landmark of Bhutan, a monastic school where an ancient specific monastic tradition is taught, and holds an annual prayer , a monlam, in the first lunar month.

Research team                                               

Lopen Nagwang Jamtsho, Lopen Tashi Tobgay, Lopen Karma Drupchu
Lecturers, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan, 2009

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)