Baling Lhakhang


Baling Lhakhang is a community-owned temple located above the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway near Koshila. It is about 83 km from the main town of Trongsa, and there is about 8km of feeder road between Baling Lhakhang and the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway. It is a two-storied temple built in traditional Bhutanese architecture with a pinnacle.


According to informants, Baling Lhakhang was built as a one-story temple by Kuenkhen Longchen Ramjam (1308–1364) in the 14th century, and it was further expanded to two stories in the early 1980s by villagers under the guidance and coordination of Lam Yeshi, who once served as head of Nimalung monastery in Chume valley, Bumthang.

Though there is no written documentation of the background story of why the site of the temple is named Baling, people believe that the name Baling refers to an ancient story of Lord Buddha. Buddha prophesized a cow to find her own place to live, and the cow chose the present location of Baling village. However, no one knows about the cow, nor why the cow was sent. Nevertheless, visitors can see a hoof print from the cow on a stone located in front of the temple. Ba in Dzongkha refers to cow and Ling refers to a pleasant place, hence the name Baling.

Later, the temple was built in Baling village, and it is now known as Baling Lhakhang. The hoof print of the cow from the prophecy can be seen on a rock in front of Baling Lhakhang even now. In addition, it is believed that the upper and lower black rocks with a boulder in the middle, which seem to form a natural gate in Hurlung Gawa at Baling Village, act as a lock and key in order to protect the temple from outside threat.

When the temple was first built by the great Buddhist scholar Kuenkhen Longchen Ramjam in 14th century when he came from Tibet, it is believed to have been built after Kuenkhen Longchen completed the construction of Sherling lhakhang, which is located in Langthel, Trongsa. He is said to have gone for a retreat at Zang mey phug, which is about a 25 minute walk away from the present temple. Footprints of a variety of animals can also be seen near the seat of the retreat of Kuenkhen Longchen. Other religious texts inscribed on rocks can also be seen on the way to the retreat of Kuenkhen Longchen. However, no one has yet been able to discern the writing of these religious texts because of the faded nature of the writing.

Thirty years ago, the former head of Nimalung monastery in Bumthang, Lam Yeshi, carried out his expansion of the temple with help from the community. During the construction, a retired monk from Tharpaling monastery (Bumthang) named Wangdi, and Ugyenla, who came to Baling as bridegroom, created the wall paintings of the temple with wages and meals provided by the villagers.

Five years ago, in 2009, a second renovation was completed with help from the government, which provided CGI sheets for the roof of the temple. The construction work was carried out by the villagers.

Today visitors can see a golden Buddhist text by Kuenkhen Longchen as the main relic of the temple. However, due to its age and the limited roofing of the old temple, the Buddhist text has been damaged by rain and cannot be read properly at present.

Architecture and Art Work

The small entrance gate is made of stone blocks without any decorations. The two-storied temple is built in traditional Bhutanese design with stone, mud and woodwork surrounded by a stone wall which is around two meters in height and one meter in width. The stairs leading to the second story and the balcony leading to the entrance of the temple on the second story are also traditional and made of wood.

The paintings in the temple include, on the left side of the wall, the Eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara), Jampeyang (Manjusri), Drolma (Tara), the Kagyu Lineage and three Buddhas of the three times: Krakucchanda (pastBuddha), Sakyamuni (present Buddha) and Maitreyanath (future Buddha). The assembly of peaceful and wrathful deities are on the right side of the wall. The three deities of longevity, Tsepamey (Amitayus), Drolkar (White Tara) and Tsugtor Namgyelma (Ushnishavijaya), are painted above the door at the entrance.

The main statue inside the temple is Lord Buddha, with statues of Guru Rinpoche and Zambala (Kubera, the deity of wealth) on the left and Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara) on the right. A statue of the guardian deity Pelden Lhamo is in the inner chapel.

Social and Cultural Activities

Since the village is located in a remote area, many people have migrated to other places in the country, resulting in a drastic decrease of houses in the village, from twelve to five at present. Ngawang Lhamo has served as the caretaker of the temple for fifteen years. The past practice of selecting a caretaker was on a rotation basics amongst village households. Later the selection was done by drawing straws, but this was reportedly not successful. Hence, 15 years ago she decided to be the caretaker. She said that in the past the caretaker had to go to every household carrying a kettle to ask for butter for butter lamps, but now there is no need for this as the butter offered by pilgrims and the villagers is sufficient. According to their custom, temple caretakers are not provided with any provisions or wages for their service.

The temple is a place for the villagers to perform rituals. The Zhingdrup (memorial consecration ritual) of the temple was conducted by Lam Yeshi during the 35 years of his stay at the temple. After him, the rituals were graced by different religious figures annually. They do not have a fixed time for this ritual. However, the usual time for this ritual is when the herders return back from taking their cattle to the mountains.

Rituals like Lham, Pho Lha, annual ritual, and reading of the Buddhist canon are also done in the temple. Lham and Pho Lha are performed on the third, fourth and tenth months of the Bhutanese calendar every year. A Tshechu, an annual ritual, is also organized on the tenth day of first month of the Bhutanese calendar. The reading of the Buddhist canon has been done for the past three years; however, this year (2014) they could not read the texts due to the construction of a stupa in the village. The meals and wages were sponsored by a villager called Tharchenand the rituals were conducted by the monks of Nimalung monastery. It is believed that mask dances are not to be performed during the events because of the local belief that performing mask dances is against the will of PhoLha, and as a result the villagers would not be blessed. Another possible reason for this lack of dances could be the shortage of dancers locally and costs involved.


Ngawang Lhamo, caretaker of Baling Lhakhang since 2000

Tandin Tshering, 67 year-old villager from Langthel, Trongsa, who settled at Baling forty years ago as a bridegroom.

Researcher and Photographer

Kinzang Dorji, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, RUB, 2014

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)