Thowadra gonpa


Thowadra ‘s position is spectacular and similar to Taktsang in the Paro valley. It is made of a main building with overhanging wooden balconies and several smaller buildings as well as in the mountain caves higher up still.


According to local tradition, Thowadra was an isolate place for Gelongma Pelmo, the daughter of the Kashmir King Triten gyalpo who had leprosy and was cured there.

It was also blessed by the presence of Guru Rinpoche who came there to meditate. This is where Guru Rinpoche is said to have left behind a wooden bird which he used to expel the king Kyikharatoe from the Khenpajong valley north of Bumthang. Thowadra is also one of the ‘gates’ leading into this secret valley, which was sealed up by Guru Rinpoche after he drove out the king.

The story surrounding Thowadra and the King Kyikharatoe is sad. It is said that Kyikharatoe came from Jelikhar in Choekhor where he had finally settled just to have a look at his beloved Khenpalung from the top of Thowadra mountain. He saw only desolation and out of grief cut down a bamboo to make a flute and played a nostalgic tune. Many places in Tang are associated with this tragic figure.

Thowadra was founded in 1238 by Lorepa (1187-1250), the Drukpa Kagyupa lama who had established Choedrak monastery at another of Guru Rinpoche’s meditation places in the Chume valley of Bumthang.

Pema Trinley (1564-1642), the grand son of Pema Lingpa and first Gantey lineage holder meditated at this place.

A Nyingmapa monastic community was established here at the end of the 18th century by Changchub Gyeltsen (alias Jigme Kundrel), a disciple of the great Tibetan Dzogchen master, Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798). After his death the temple was not looked after but was restored by the Drukpa hierarch Choeje Ngawang Trinley who stayed there in meditation. Choeje Ngawang Trinley also restored Choedrak in Chume, also founded by Lorepa. However one problem is that there are two lamas of the same name in this lineage. The 1st Ngawang Thinley lived 1712-1770 and the 2nd Ngawang Thinley’s dates were 1916-1950, and both were Je Khenpo of Bhutan. It might be the second who restored the temple but this has to be confirmed.

Architectural style / school and related art works

Thowadra is made of a main temple and several small houses scattered above the rock as well as the holy spring of Gelongma Pelmo and the stone throne of Guru Rinpoche.

Social cultural function

Thowadra is a highly regarded pilgrimage place, a place of meditation and also has a small monastic school under the Thowadra Lam; it follows the Longchen Nyinthik tradition of the Nyingma school.

A spring blessed by Guru Rinpoche and Gelongma Pelmo comes out of the rock and is revered by the pilgrims as well as the stones believed to be dakinis’ bath and Guru Rinpoche’s throne.

The bamboos around Thowadra are said to be holy as they would have been brought initially from the great pilgrimage place of Tsari is south-east Tibet. Pilgrims take bamboos from Thowadra as protection.

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