Nimzhong Lhakhang


Nimzhong Lhakhang is located in Nimzhong village, approximately a half hour drive from Riwo Tala on the Trongsa–Zhemgang Highway. The feeder road to Nimzhong climbs up from the Mangdechu river bridge. The modest, two-storey Nimzhong temple is a traditional building surrounded by village houses. Although Nimzhong is its common name, its religious name is Tashi Choling, given by Lopen Kunzang Gyurmed.

According to oral sources, the name for the village is derived from a particular paddy field called Nimzhong, about a 30 minute walk away. There once stood a village around the field, but local villagers migrated in the past, and they now call the newer village Nimzhong. The name, in fact, was originally Pung Leng, which means “place of gathering.” Nimzhong means “tub of sun,” relating to the local perception that the paddy field looked like a huge bathtub filled with sunlight when the morning rays of sun concentrated on it.


According to caretaker Yeshi Ngudup, the founders of the temple were village lama Lopen Kunzang Gyurmed and head of the local community, Rinchen Nyophela. In response to the lack of a place to worship or perform rituals, they worked to bring a spiritual environment to the village. They founded the one-storey temple in 1925, and after three years all the statues and wall paintings were brought in with funding and labour from the villagers. At that time there were only 14 households in Nimzhong village, but as there are now 77, everybody is pleased to have this temple to fulfill their religious needs.

Gomchen Pema Tshering, son of Lopen Kunzang Gyurmed, renovated the original lhakhang in 1972, extending it into a two-storey structure in keeping with traditional Bhutanese temple design. In 2005, the local community replaced the roof and the wooden floor inside the temple.

Architecture and Artwork

The two-storey temple is made of wood, stone, and mortar in the traditional Bhutanese style. The main altar on the top floor is elaborately decorated. The main statues there are the Kuntu Zangpo (Samtabhadra Choeku); Chenrezi (Avalokishvara Longku); Guru Rinpoche (Trulku); the Eight Emanations of Guru Rinpoche; and Chagtong Chentong (Avaloketishavara in his form of one thousand arms and eyes).

The old version of the sacred scriptures of Buddha’s words is kept in a place of deep respect just below the ceiling, while a new version is kept in a cupboard on the left side of the altar. A statue of the local deity, Drakpo Lhagyal, is also located on that side. The walls are covered with paintings of the Buddha Shakyamuni; Vajrasattava (Dorji Sempa); the Eight Emanations of Guru Rinpoche; and the local deity. These were repainted by Pema Tshering in 1978.

Social and Cultural Functions

The temple, which belongs to the local villagers, adheres to the Nyingma religious tradition. of Dorji Lingpa (1346–1405). It is traditionally looked after in rotation by a caretaker from the village.

After the completion of the temple, locals began yearly performances of a ritual ceremony called Drup. The ceremony would last for three days, during which various masked dances of the Dorji Lingpa tradition were performed. This practice was eventually discontinued, but a few old masks remain in the temple from those days. In 2008, after more than seventy years, the Drup was reprised on the same day as the Guru Rinpoche (10th day of the 2nd month of the Bhutanese calendar), but it is not as elaborate as it had been in the past.

The temple hosts the following events:

  • 8th–10th days of the 2nd month of the Bhutanese calendar: Tsechu and Lhakhang Drup (ཚེས་བཅུ་དང་ལྷ་ཁང་སྒྲུབ་). On the first day, villagers make a round of the village carrying a holy scripture on their backs. On the second, lay practitioners (gomchen) prepare torma, religious cakes, in the morning, and after lunch they perform a ritual. On the final day, villagers respectfully invite the local deity, Drakpo Lhagyal, to come to the temple from his residence, which is located on the bank of the Mangdechu river. Villagers then perform masked dances of the Dorji Lingpa tradition.
  • 10th day of the 8th month: Tsechu: Villagers invite the local deity to the temple for offerings and pray to him to guard them from obstacles and natural calamities.
  • 25th day of the 12th month: Gonpoi Kangso (ritual to Gonpo/Mahakala)


Sangey Khando, reincarnation of Lopen Kunzang Gyurmed
Ap Adola, senior villager, Nimzhong village
Yeshi Ngodup, caretaker of Nimzhong Gonpa for more than 12 years, Nimzhong village, 2014


Tenzin Dorji, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2015


Yannick Jooris

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