Gagar Lhakhang


Gagar Lhakhang (temple) is located northwest of Trongsa town, about 18 km from Trongsa’s Sherubling Higher Secondary School. The Trongsa–Kharshong road leading to Gagar Lhakhang is a feeder road climbing up from the school. The temple is located at an altitude of 2500m on top of a gentle hill along the ridge of a mountain, with a settlement of a few houses and farmers’ fields alongside. All villages under the Nubi sub-district are visible from the temple’s vantage point, with Gagar village (locally known as Gagar Pam) located on the slope immediately below the temple.


According to oral sources, Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen (Thugs sras Zla ba rgyal mtshan, 1499–1587), the son of the saint Pema Lingpa, is the temple’s founder. Local history has it that when Thukse was meditating in a place called Sangcholing, he marveled at the beautiful hill in front of him and wished for a temple to be built on top. When he came down he told the local people that the hill was a happy place. It is believed that on that same night he had a vision in which celestial fairies came down and showed him the site for the construction of the temple. In the morning, five flowers grew on that spot, marking the place where the temple was to be built. This location was eventually named “Gagar,” which translates to “a happy place” in Dzongkha.

Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen gave the responsibility for building the temple to the family that lived nearby. Gagar Choje is the family lineage of those who built Gagar Lhakhang in the 16th century, and indeed the temple is still owned and maintained by the family of Gagar Choje. All expenses required for the temple are borne by family members, with some labor provided by the Gagar villagers. Chimi Dorji, head of the Gagar Choje family, is the temple’s caretaker.

The temple is believed to have been constructed in the 16th century. Although there are no written documents confirming the exact date of construction, this temple is mentioned in the biography of Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen, summarized by Lham Dorji (2005). Gagar Lhakhang was built in the period when Thukse was still alive.

After his death, founder Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen’s remains were placed in the temple as a relic; it is not clear, though, how these remains reached Gagar, as Thukse died in Tibet. Local sources also state that the relics were eventually stolen from the temple. According to Lham Dorji, “People of Chume had to take trouble travelling to Gaga every year to perform the Peling Kuchoe in Gaga, and once they discussed to bring the body relic to Trakar. They went with lavish amount of drinks and in the end of the Kuchoe, served the people of Gaga with plenty of drinks. While they were enjoying the excessive drinks, some men of Chume stole the body and ran away towards Chume. Once realizing that the body had been stolen, some people of Gaga followed the steps and brought back its mummified head while the lower part of the body was taken to Trakar” (Dorji, 100). Today, the lower part of the body relic of Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen is preserved in Trakar /Prakar temple in the Chume valley of Bumthang, where Thukse lived, and the head is kept in the Trongsa Dzong.

The temple was renovated in 1994–1995.

Architecture and Artwork

Gagar Lhakhang follows the Peling Nyingmapa tradition of Buddhism.

The temple is a two-storey Bhutanese structured house, with wood, stones, and mortar serving as the base. The main altar occupies the biggest space on the top floor. There is a small guestroom at the side reserved for lamas (priests) visiting the temple. The ground floor has a big room for all types of communal gatherings. The two floors are connected inside by a traditional Bhutanese wooden staircase.

The altar inside the temple is elaborately decorated, with the main relic being a small stupa, or chorten, that once contained the remains of Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen; although these relics were stolen, the stupa still remains at the center of the altar. A number of statues fill the spaces around the stupa: those of Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen; Guru Pema Juney; the Buddha of the past Dipamkara (Marmeze); Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig); Vajrapani (Chagdor); and Guru Rinpoche as the God of Wealth (Ugyen Norlha). Another altar at the left side contains various Buddhist scriptures: Choebum, Tharpa Chenbu, and Diksha.

The walls are covered with paintings of Avalokiteshvara with a thousand hands and eyes (Chagtong Chentong); the saint Pema Lingpa; the Eight Buddhas of Medicine; Buddha and his disciples (Tenpa Tshokhor Sum); and the Buddha of Long Life Amitayus (Tshepame). There is also a painting of a mandala (Khyilkhor), a spiritual symbol, on the temple’s ceiling. The walls were repainted in 1994–1995 by Lhadrip Dorji when the temple was renovated.

On the grounds next to the temple stands a small structure for lighting butter lamps, and next to it, northwest of the temple, there is another small structure housing a prayer wheel, decorated inside with paintings. A few yards away from the temple sits a two-storey Bhutanese house belonging to the family of Gagar Choje.

Social and Cultural Functions

An important ritual is performed yearly on the 13th day of the 12th month of the Bhutanese calendar. People believe that if this ritual is not performed every year, a calamity will befall the village. In the past, people from Chume and Bumthang came to Gagar Lhakhang to perform the rituals, but this tradition ceased after the temple’s main relic was lost. People from Gagar village visit the temple during auspicious days in the Bhutanese calendar.

Although the temple is owned by the Gagar Choje family, it serves the Gagar community as a place of worship and religious meeting for all.


Kesang Jurmey, Tshogpa, Gagar-Kharshong, Nubi gewog, Trongsa district, 2014


Dorji, L. (2005). “Religious life and history of the emanated heart – son Thukse Dawa Gyeltshen.” Journal of Bhutan Studies.13: pp.1–100. <>


Jigme Wangdi, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2014


Yannick Jooris


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