Samten Choeling Temple


Samten Choeling Temple is located just above Bji village in Trongsa district. Bji village is approximately a half an hour drive from the main Trongsa town, and the temple is a further 20-minute walk from Bji village. The temple is a two-storey building, with a stupa (chorten) and a prayer wall located on the way to the temple. The architecture of the temple is magnificent, and it is decorated with valuable traditional paintings.


The temple was built by the Bhutanese lama Ngawang Dargay, who was a disciple of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The precise date of construction is unknown, but as per the information given by informants who were there during the second king’s time, the temple was built after the Zhabdrung came to Bhutan in the 17th century. The temple was only one-storey when it was constructed, but later Lama Tenzin Nima, who was a Trongsa Abbot, added one more storey.

The water prayer wheel beside the temple was built by a nephew of Tenzin Nima in order to purify the sin that he had accumulated after leaving his monk’s vows.

Two renovations to the temple were more recent. The temple was renovated by an astrologer named Dendupla, who was from Bji village. It is not certain when Dendupla lived, but informants speculate that it was in the 20th century. Once againin the year 2000, with some private financial aid and the help of Trongsa Dzongkhag administration, some necessary renovation to the temple was completed.

Architecture and art work

The temple has both wall paintings and statues inside. Inside the temple, on the left there are wall paintings of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the 16 Arhats, while on the right side there are wall paintings of Guru Rinpoche and his Eight Manifestations. The main statue in the middle of the altar is Lord Buddha. On the right of the main statue is Guru Rinpoche, and on the left is Avalokitesvara with 4 hands and Avalokiteshvara with 11 Heads. The statue of Avalokiteshvara with 11 heads was donated by King Ugyen Wangchuck, the first monarch of Bhutan.

Social and cultural functions
The temple is a religious landmark for the community, and hosts a number of religious events every year. At present they organize a one-week meditation practice (Nyungne) in the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar for the well-being of all sentient beings. In the 2nd month of the Bhutanese calendar, they have a tradition of reading the Buddha’s scriptures (Kanjur) for three days to bring peace in the community. They also host monks from the Trongsa monastic body, who perform their basic meditation there. Daily prayers and basic rituals are performed during auspicious days as per the Bhutanese calendar. The caretaker of the temple is a layman appointed by the Bji community.

The people of Bji community worship the local deity Gyelp Lungtse. Villagers are reportedly very devout to their local deity, and when they face problems, challenges or illnesses they come to the temple to ask for the deity’s support and assistance. People seek the deity’s help somewhat frequently, according to informants. The deity is said to be very generous to villagers who come to the temple in search of his help.

Ap Lengo, Caretaker of Samten Choeling Temple, 59 years old, Bji village, 2014
Ap Najay, Master dancer, Bji village, 2014

Researcher & Photographer
Chencho Tshering,
Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, RUB


(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)