Nabji Lhakhang


Nabji Lhakhang’s name comes from nἁboed (མནའ་འབོད), which means “taking an oath.” Long ago in this location King Sindha and King Nawoche took an oath of non-violence against each other in the presence of the great Indian guru, Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Beside the entrance of the temple, there is a huge cypress tree believed to be the walking stick of Guru Padmasambhava.

The temple is located at 2156 m in Nabji village, Korphu gewog, 110–115 kms by road from Trongsa town, and another half hour walk up from Nabji Primary School. The temple is in the middle of a field, surrounded by a wall.


According to traditional history, in the mid­-8th century lived an Indian king named Sindha, alias Kunjom, who was exiled by his father, King Singgala, and subsequently became the king of Bumthang. There was another King from India named Nawoche who hated king Sindha and vice versa. During a battle King Sindha’s son, Taglha Mebar, was killed by King Nawoche.

After his son’s death , King Sindha stopped all sacrificial offerings to the protective deities and ordered all holy places to be covered with excrement. Thereupon, Shelging Karpo, the mightiest of gods and demons, stole the “life power” of King Sindha. Padmasambhava was then invited to cure the king, and he helped the king to regain his life power.

Padmasambhava also had a good relation with King Nawoche, so he was able to call both kings to the border of India and Mon where the present temple lies. A monolith was erected there with the handprints of both kings and the Guru. There are some marks on the edges of the monolith that are said to be from swords used for witness marking by the kings’ retinues.

Later, the dakinis Khando Tashi Kheyuden, alias Machig Bumdan or Lhacham Bumden Tshomo; Lhacham Oden Tshomo; Lhacham Tredan Tshomo; and Lhacham Gyaldan Tshomo decided to build a temple in this location, as it was a sacred place of Guru Padmasambhava. They would build the temple in the daytime, and in the evening demons and spirit foes would destroy it. This happened many times, frustrating the dakinis, so they prayed for Guru Padmasambhava to help them. Though the Guru was not present at that moment, they visualized him by facing toward the cliff, which was said to contain many sacred treasures. Guru helped by performing a sacred dance (tercham) in which he displayed many different forms, such as half human and half animal. While the demons and spirits were distracted by the displays, the dakinis completed the temple.

A detailed story of this colourful history can be found in the book Life of King Sindha and The Clear Mirror of Predictions, compiled and edited by Yonten Dargye, National Library and Archives of Bhutan.

In the 13th century Terton Dorje Lingpa (1346–1405) consecrated the temple. In the 19th century a man named Tashi Wangdi from Bumthang came to Nabji as a guest, and later he extended the temple to what we see today. No major damage has happened to this day.

Architecture and Artwork

Nabji Lhakhang is a one-storey temple built in the traditional Bhutanese style and surrounded by a wall. Upon entry, there is a corridor with a few prayer wheels and a room separate from the temple chapels, which is used as a storeroom during festivals and at times for the preparation of ritual cakes.

On the front wall of the temple are wall paintings of Dorje Lingpa, Pema Lingpa, and their lineage holders, as well as Thangtong Gyalpo (Chagzampa 1385–1464) and Green Tara, painted by a man named Lhalung Choki Wangchuk from Tibet.

On the right side of the entrance stand statues of the Four Guardian Kings attached to the outer wall of the inner chapel: two kings on each wall, with the entrance to the inner chapel situated in the middle.

On the left-side wall of the chapel are wall paintings of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche; Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel; the great Kagyu saints Marpa and Milarepa; and the Three Long Life Deities, which were painted by a man named Tawdola, from Padamsambhava temple, which is half a km away from Tamshing Lhakhang in Bumthang. The paintings are said to be 60–70 years old. On the right side corner lies the main relic of the temple, the monolith, with the handprints of King Sindha, King Nawoche, and Guru Rinpoche.

In the inner chapel, there is a statue of Guru Rinpoche, said to have been made by Trulku Chogden Gonpo (1497–1557). On Guru Rinpoche’s left side stand statues of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara); Chagtong Chentong (Avalokiteshvara with one thousands eyes and arms); Chana Dorje (Vajrapani); Future Buddha Jowo Jampa; and a statue of Terton Dorje Lingpa, which is said to have been made by Trulku Chogden Gonpo himself.

On right side of Guru Rinpoche, there are statues of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel; the god of wealth Zambalha; and Buddha Sakyamuni. On the right side corner of the inner chapel stands a statue of Menmo, the local water deity. On the left side corner of this chapel is a box containing the “souls” of the local protective deities, and beside this are statues of these deities: Pekar Gyalpo, the main protective deity of the community; the Black Mountains deity Jowo Durshing; the protective deity of Kurtoe Terdag Zorarakye; and Muktsen, protective deity of the Mangde region.

Near the entrance is a tree that is believed to be the walking stick of Guru Rinpoche. Toward the right edge of the temple near the windows sits a plain rock with the footprints of Dorje Lingpa and his horse. Beside the temple on the right side there is a stone attached to the wall that bears the fingerprints of Khandro Tashi Kheyuden.

The field that surrounds the temple is kept as a choezhi (field offered for religious people). The villagers of Upper and Lower Nabji cultivate the paddies annually in rotation. Beside the temple are two rocks: the upper represents the sacred Body of the Dakinis, and the lower represents the sacred Speech of the Dakinis. The monolith inside the temple represents the sacred Mind of the Dakinis. The speech sacred rock has some graffiti on it, believed to be the Khandro Dayig (symbolic script of Dakini).

Social and Cultural Functions

Currently, the community takes care of the temple. The Chakhar Lama from Bumthang and his descendants have been performing the annual drup, or grand religious ceremony, at the temple in the same manner as it is performed at Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. Lam Chimi Rigzin is the current abbot taking care of the temple. The community practices the Drukpa Kagyu and DorLing traditions and performs the following ceremonies:

  • 13th–15th days of the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar: Nyungne (fasting and prayers), sponsored by the community; if there are many sponsors, they will read the Kanjur (Buddhist canon)
  • 8th–10th days of the 2nd month, coinciding with the day on which Guru Rinpoche first visited the place: Young boys and girls go around the village collecting alms, and on the 10th the temple abbot performs the ritual Baza Guru.
  • 10th day of the 5th month: Trenda tsechu, a prayer of supplication sponsored by the villagers
  • 4th day of the 6th month, coinciding with the 1st Sermon of Lord Buddha: Ritual sponsored by 8 households
  • 10th day of the 6th month: Lhaphud, a Bon ritual performed to clear away obstacles and please the local deities
  • 10th day of the 7th month: Soeldep Lensum, sponsored by the villagers
  • 22nd day of the 9th month: Ritual coinciding with Descending Day of Lord Buddha, sponsored by the villagers
  • 22nd day of the 9th month: Ritual sponsored by 8 households
  • 15th–20th days of the 11th month: Annual Drup, grand religious ceremony, sponsored by the villagers in rotation
  • 10th day of the 12th month: Community ritual
  • 8th, 10th, 15th, 25th and 30th days of every month (auspicious days): Rituals performed in a small group, sponsored by the villagers

Lam Chimi Rigzin, 43 years old, current abbot of the temple

Yonten Dargye. (2009). Life of King Sindha [Chakhar Gyalpo] and The Clear Mirror of Predictions. Thimphu: National Library and Archives of Bhutan.

Singye Wangchuk, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan, 2015

(Click on the Thumbnails to view the Photo Gallery)