Langthel Lhakhang


Langthel Lhakhang is a one-storey temple located about 50 km away from Trongsa town towards Zhemgang on the Trongsa-Gelephu Highway. There are two routes one can use to reach the temple. One is by taking the road to Yundrung Choling Palace, and the other is by way of the road to Dangdung village. The temple is located in the middle of Langthel village.


The great scholar and Tibetan Lama Longchen Rabjampa built Langthel temple in the 14th century. Drimed Yoedzer, son of Longchen Rabjampa, is believed to have also resided at the temple, which is said to have been small at the time. Later, Trulku Chokden Gonpo (1497-1557), a disciple of the treasure discoverer Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) and also said to be the “heart son” of the treasure discoverer Dorji Lingpa (1346-1405), resided at the temple.

How Trulku Chokden Gonpo arrived to Langthel is an interesting story. Pema Lingpa’s disciple and patron, Lam Nangso from Tibet, invited Pema Lingpa to Lhalung in Lhodrak, Tibet, for the consecration of his new house. Pema Lingpa accepted the invitation of Lam Nangso. However, when his house was about to be finished, Pema Lingpa became ill and could not travel to the consecration. Pema Lingpa sent his disciple Trulku Chokden Gonpo as his representative to consecrate the house at Lhalung. One night, a Dakini appeared in Trulku Chokden Gonpo’s dream, and told him that his master, Pema Lingpa, is going to pass away soon. The Dakini advised him to go back to his master and offer prayers of longevity for his master. Early the next day, he rushed to meet his master.

When he reached Tamshing in Bumthang, Trulku Chokden Gonpo was denied access to his master. Pema Lingpa’s son, Dawa Gyeltshen announced that his father was very ill, and that no one would be allowed to see him. Trulku Chokden Gonpo was saddened for not being able to see his master, despite his being a close disciple. Trulku Chokden Gonpo left Tamshing in order to stay away for a while. Pema Lingpa was an emanation of Longchen Rabjampa, and this likely informed Trulku Chokden Gonpo’s decision to choose Langthel Lhakhang as his destination, due to its relationship with his master’s previous incarnation. While in residence at the temple, Trulku Chokden Gonpo enlarged the temple and installed the statue of Buddha Maitreya.

Further renovations took place after Trulku Chokden Gonpo’s time at the temple. The renovations must have been carried out at least by the time of the 42nd Je Khenpo, who is represented in wall paintings. This would date at least some renovation to the late 19th or early 20th century.

Architectural and Art Work

The one-storey temple is built in traditional Bhutanese architectural style. Five large prayer wheels (Vajra Guru, one Buddha Amitabha, two Mani and one Long Life) were installed by Lam Tashi Wangdi, who resides in the village. Along the wall, there are more prayer wheels that were installed by the 69th Je Khenpo, Geshe Gedun Rinchen, in the late 20th century.

Inside the temple, there are several paintings believe to have been painted by an artist from the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. These paintings include the abbot’s seat, and wall paintings such as the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the 42nd Je Khenpo Thinley Gyeltshen (1886 – 1888), the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, the four harmonious friends, the Six Symbols of Longevity and local deities. The belief that the painter was from the Gelugpa sect stems from the image of Tshongkhapa Lobsang Drakpa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelugpa school in Tibet, which can be seen above the wall painting of local deities.

Above the seat of the abbot, one can usually see masks, which are used for mask dances each year in the 11th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

The main religious objects in the temple are the statue of the Buddha Maitreya and the nodding statue of Zhabdrung Rinpoche. There is a statue of the Eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara (Chuchigje),as well as small statues of Vajrasattva (Dorje sempa), Guru Rinpoche, Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezi) and a chorten. Beside a doorway, there is another altar room with a painting of the deity Palden Lhamo in her form as Lhamo Dusolma. There is also a wall painting of Avalokiteshvara and a Kanjur (108 volumes) donated by King Ugyen Wangchuck in the early 20th century.

Social and cultural functions

The temple is looked after by the community, and several rituals and events take place at the temple each year.In the first month of Bhutanese calendar, community members perform Zhingdrup and Nyungne, a practice of fasting and giving prayers. On the tenth day of the second month of Bhutanese calendar, a tsechu ritual is performed. On the tenth day of the third month of Bhutanese calendar, a ten-day ritual is performed during Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the Death Anniversary of the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. On the fifteenth day of the fourth month of the Bhutanese calendar, the niece of Lam Tashi Wangdi hosts a ritual at the temple. Since 2012, on the fourth day of the sixth month of the Bhutanese calendar the Mangdechhu Hydropower Project hosts a ritual at the temple.

On the tenth day of the seventh month of the Bhutanese calendar, the community performs the summer fire blessing and slaughter offering called Chungpai Due (Marchoed). However, the slaughtering of animals, except pigs, was stopped by the second Petsheling Trulku, Jigme Tenpai Gyeltsen in the 18th century. Currently, all sacrificing has stopped entirely and people now make cakes in the shape of deer to offer during the ritual.

In the ninth month, on the Descending Day of Lord Buddha, different sponsors host a ritual at the temple. In the tenth month, a ritual called Lhawang Thradki Choepa, an offering of rice-cakes, is performed. In the eleventh month, there is a three-day religious dance ceremony called Drub,where sacred dances such as the Samteling Cham, Drametse Ngacham, Sangay Lingpa’s Ngacham, Boed cham and other dances are performed.


Lam Tashi Wangdi, Langthel village, 85 years of age as of 2014

Researcher & Photographer

Singye Wangchuk, Assistant Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, RUB, 2014

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)