Karma Drubdey Palmo Chos Kyi Dingkhang nunnery


The nunnery is located 24 kilometers away from Trongsa Dzong, on the road going to Zhemgang and Gelephu. It was established on the middle of a hill above Kuenga Rabten Palace. The nunnery is about 30-minutes by foot from Kuenga Rabten, and there is now a feeder road that connects the main highway to the nunnery. The nunnery serves as a monastic school (shedra), retreat center (drupde) and monastic institution (dratshang).


Karma Drubdey Pelmo Chos Kyi Dingkha Nunnery was founded by the Venerable Khenpo Tshultrim Jamtsho in 1968. Venerable Khenpo Tshultrim Jamtsho came from Tibet and was granted refugee status in Bhutan by Her Majesty Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck. Khenpo, along with 13 nuns who escaped with him from Tibet, stayed in Kuenga Rabten palace and Buli Lhakhang in Bumthang. Today Khenpo lives in Nepal.

During Khenpo’s stay in Kuenga Rabten Palace, it was said that he once went for a walk with elderly nuns and local people. On their way, he was suddenly nowhere to be found. After many hours of searching, finally they saw a yellow spot in the middle of the rocky mountain above Kuenga Rabten Palace. When the search group reached the spot, they saw Khenpo meditating inside a small cave in the location where the present nunnery’s main temple is located. Khenpo declared this place as his abode, and later erected a small temple (Lhakhang). After the completion of the main temple, Rinpoche, along with a few nuns, shifted from Kuenga Rabten palace to the present nunnery location. In 1998, other buildings were constructed which now serve as a retreat center.

Architectural Style/School and Related Art Work

The temple, retreat hall, kitchen, hostels and other social gathering houses were built in traditional Bhutanese architectural forms with extensive woodwork and stones. Some shrines and retreat halls were constructed in modern Bungalow style. A cement gate near the highway marks the entrance of the nunnery.

Inside the main temple, there is a Guru Rinpoche statue brought from Rumtek in Sikkim, the residence of the Karmapas, and this statue is considered an important relic. Most walls of the temple are painted with wrathful deities and Bodhisattva images.

Social and Cultural Functions

The nunnery serves as a Buddhist institution (shedra), a three year retreat center (drupde) and a general monastic school (dratshang) under the supervision of present 17th Gyalwang Karmapa and the founding Khenpo. These figures also provide the nunnery with food and clothes for more than 120 nuns.

Every year, eight nuns undergo a retreat for three years, and eight nuns undergo a one year retreat. In total, 18 nuns participate in a retreat, including two assistants.

Each day of the week is divided into different activities at the nunnery. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, all nuns circumambulate the temple. On Wednesday evening, the nuns form groups and do meditation inside the temple for an hour. On Friday, nuns perform yogi songs, or gurmo (gur mo), and practice expressions and codified body movements, according to the song. On Saturday, all nuns engage in social work, which focuses on maintaining environmental awareness through eco-friendly activities.

Every three years they conduct a monlam chenmo (smon lam chen mo), a long ceremony of well wishes, and on the fourth month of the Bhutanese calendar they perform a nyungne (snyung gnas), which includes fasting and prayers for the world’s well-being. They also recite the Buddha’s words between December and January. After the recitation of the text, for one month the nuns do rituals and recite texts and prayers all around the nearby communities. Other than these given days, the nuns are not permitted to go anywhere to perform rituals. The nuns regularly receive well-wishers, donors and spiritual masters at the nunnery.

Yeshi Choden, Principal of the Nunnery and head of the Bhutan Nunnery Foundation;
Jamyang, Nunnery Supervisor; Khechok Pelmo, Nun

Sangay Thinley
Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan, 2013

Yannick Jooris


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