Sombrang (Sumthrang) Lhakhang


Sombrang is surrounded with five sacred significant spots: A cliff like a piled text at north, conch shaped landscape at the south, pure holy spring water at the west and swastika (yungdrung) shaped rock bed at the east.

The temple resembles a large two storey stone house with a large window (rabsel) facing east and an enclosed stone courtyard. Nearby is the large house of the lineage holder (choeje). A prayer wall marks the way to the temple.


Some of the local traditions attribute the temple to Gyelwa Lhanangpa (1164-1224) of the Nyoe clan, closely associated with the Drikung Kagyu school, and who founded the Lhapa school in Bhutan. However the Bhutanese and Tibetan texts attribute the first foundation of the temple to Demchok alias Nyoetoen Trushig Choeje (1179-1265) who came when he was 47 from southern Tibet. He is said to be the son of Gyelwa Lhanagpa but this seems debated. One of his descendents would be the great religious figure Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), a proponent of the Nyingma lineage.

At a pass of the mountain near Ura, the lama was stopped by a demon who had a human head and a body of an animal. The lama then manifested into the form of his tutelary deity Phurpa and subdued the demon. He then, took the head, limbs and heart as an offering to his deities. The chest bone and the skull of the demon remained as a sacred possession of the monastery.

When constructing Sombrang temple, the walls that was build during the day were always dismantled at night by demons. He had a dream that he should first construct a small temple in the south east direction of Sombrang. Thus, he built a chorten at Shinyer, and afterwards, could complete the temple construction.

A lama from Sombrang, Tashi Dorje, a contemporary of Pemalingpa invited the famous treasure discoverer Lethro Lingpa (1488-1553) to Sombrang . Tashi Dorje was a disciple of Pema Lingpa but also close to the Shamarpa.

The temple was restored in the late 2000 under the initiative of the lineage holder.

Architectural style / school and related art works

The stone pillars, two in the courtyard and one inside the temple are testimonies to the past of the place. They are solid megaliths without any inscription dating probably to the proto-historic period. Their usage is not known although they are found in many places in central Bhutan . They might have been erected as demarcation or used for ritual purposes. Bhutanese consider that they are “wonders” from another realm and respect them.

Other important relics from the temple include thick bamboos which resemble a dorje (vajra) and are believed to have been given to his son by Gyelwa Lhanangpa himself after his “opening” of sacred sites at the Tsari Mountain in south east Tibet and a small drum called the roar of the thunder. From the sound of the drum falling at this place, the monastery took its name.

The main statue represents the founder Demchok alias Nyoetoen Trushig Choeje.

The temple was probably restored at least once in the early 20th century.

In the late 2000, the temple was being restored by the family, the villagers and the government.

Social cultural function

It is a private temple with a lineage holder called the Sombrang Choeje and considered

one of the most important places for the Bhutanese history as descendants from this lineage include, amongst others, Pemalingpa and therefore the Wangchuck Royal family.

In the 9th or 10 Bhutanese month, the family of the Sombrang Choeje performs a ritual called Kangso which serves as a purification and blessing for the family and the community. Religious dances are performed.

Research team                                               

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

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