Raphel Lhakhang (Pal Sangchen Ugyen Tsuglag khang)


Raphel lhakhang is located in Samchoeling village, which is a drive of approximately one and a half hours from the main Trongsa town. The temple is a further 10 minute walk from Samchoeling Middle Secondary School. The temple is a two-story building with notably magnificent wall paintings.


In the 8th century, when Guru Rinpoche came to Bhutan for the first time by invitation of the Chakhar Gyalpo Sindu Raja to Bumthang, he subdued the local deity Shelging Karpo, and also discovered many treasures for the well-being of sentient beings. During the visit, Guru Rinpoche accepted Gyalpo Sindu Raja’s daughter, Monbum Tashi Khui Drangas, as his consort. The local tradition says that in the year 808, for the well-being of sentient beings, the princess decided to build a temple, and requested Guru Rinpoche to help her in achieving this goal. Guru Rinpoche agreed to help, and with his supernatural power he went to the present location of the temple, and in the year 811, a one-story temple was built. Other sacred places blessed by Guru Rinpoche are located nearby temple.

At the end of the 19th century, with the patronage of Jakar Dzongpon Chimi Dorji, Ashi Lemo, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck’s wife, and Ashi Pem Choki, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk’s mother, the temple was upgraded to two stories. In the year 2010, during the visit of the Lhalung Sungtrul Rinpoche, Kunzang Pema Rinchen Namgyal (b.1965), who was an incarnation of Pema Lingpa, the temple was named Pal Sangchen Ugyen Tsuglag khang.

As the temple was prophesied by Guru Rinpoche himself, it also had been blessed by many great lamas. Amongst these great figures include Yab Tenpai Nima, the Zhabdrung’s father in the 16th century, and Lhalung Thukse Rinpoche, an incarnation of Pema Lingpa (1450-1521). The temple is therefore considered one of the most sacred places in the area.

Architecture and art work

The architectural work of the temple is great, and the temple contains both wall paintings and statues. Inside the main temple, on the right side there is a wall painting of Terton Pema Lingpa, and on the left side there is a painting of Guru Rinpoche and his eight manifestations. There is also a beautiful painting of the peaceful and wrathful deities (Zhi Khro Dampa Lhatshogs). The main statues in the temple are, in the centre the historical Buddha, on the right side Avalokiteshvara with 11 heads (Chuchig Zhal), and on the left side Guru Rinpoche.

Social and cultural functions

The temple is a religious landmark for the community, and hosts a number of religious events every year. Prayers and basic rituals are performed during auspicious days of the Bhutanese calendar. The caretaker of the temple is a layman appointed by the Samchoeling community.

The villagers worship and have full faith in the protective deities of temple, Palden Lhamo and Yeshi Gonpo. Villagers are reportedly very devoted to them, and when they face problems, challenges or illnesses they come to the temple to ask for support and assistance of these deities. According to informants, it is said that if we pray to them with pure heart and dedication, the protectors will surely help us, and there is also a chance of seeing them in person and receiving their blessing.


Sangay Tshering, Caretaker, 43 years old, Samchoeling village

Lopen Pelbar, Former Caretaker of Raphel Lhakhang, 2013

Researcher & Photographer

Chencho Tshering, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, RUB, 2014