Nyala Ogyen Dargay Choling


Nyala Ogyen Dargay Choling temple is located in Nyala village which sits at an elevation of 2809 m approximately 30 km west of Trongsa off the main Trongsa–Thimphu highway. The temple is a further 20 km down a rough road that turns off near Chendebji. There is a lake enroute to the temple, where it is believed that the protective deity Rahula (Za) drinks water.


No written record regarding the origin of the temple is at our disposal thus far, although we have an oral history narrated by the 8th Nyala Lama Palden Rinchen.

According to the lama, at the end of the 17th century a Siddha named Drub Zhidar Pelzangpo
(said by some to have been Indian), travelled from mountain to mountain meditating, eventually arriving at the Black Mountains in the Phobjikha valley. There he met the 2nd Gangtey Trulku Tenzin Lekpai Dhondub (1645–1727), who instructed him to introduce Buddhism in the Nyala region.

At that time Nyala was in a thick forest, and there was a horrendous demoness known as Nyala Dum who killed everyone who passed through. Drub Zhidar subdued the demoness, settled in the village, and built a one-storey temple at the current location. A stupa was also erected on the way to the temple to commemorate the death of the demoness Nyala Dum.

The temple was built with assistance from Tangsibji, Nyala, Chendebji, Kheng and Karzhong villagers, as the Nyala lamas – said to be of Drub Zhidar Pelzangpo’s lineage – would travel to these villages to perform rituals. Around 1984, Lopen (now Lama) Sangay Dorji, who had the formal title of “life protector” (sung-khorpa) of the 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, restored the temple and added a storey.

Timber for the renovation was donated by Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck and supervised by Lama Palden Wangchuk, uncle of the present 8th Nyala Lama Palden Rinchen.

Because of the temple’s close association with the Gangtey Trulkus, who are the reincarnations of Pema Lingpa’s grandson, the temple follows the same religious tradition, known as Peling Nyingma.

Architecture and Artwork

The monastery was renovated after the earthquake in 2011, with the reconstructed architecture in the same traditional Bhutanese style of woodwork and stone. A large prayer wheel stands at the front of the temple near the entrance.

The main chapel is on the ground floor in the middle of the temple on the south side. To the right of the altar are wall paintings of the Zangdopelri (“Glorious Copper Colored Mountain,” the paradise of Guru Rinpoche) and Sangay Tsog Khor Sum (Buddha and his two main disciples). To the left are wall paintings of Nubchog Dewachen (Sukhavati, the western paradise of the Buddha Amitabha), and the Buddha Dorji Sempa (Vajrasattva). All around the temple are paintings of the one thousand Buddhas.

The main chapel on the first floor is also in the middle on the south side. The main statue in this chapel is Guru Pema Juney (Padmasambhava), surrounded by statues of his Eight Manifestations. There are also statues of Lama Drub Zhidar to the right of the altar and the 2nd Gangtey Trulku Tenzin Lekpai Dhondub to the left.
The wall painting on the left side of the altar are of Guru Dorji Drolo (Guru Rinpoche on the tigress); the Buddha Shakyamuni; Namsay (Vaishravana, the deity of wealth); Tshepame (the long-life Buddha Amitayus); the supreme Buddha Dorji Chang (Vajradhara); and Indian Buddhist scholars (referred to by the collective term of Zamling Zepi Gyen Dru, the Six Ornaments of the Universe). To the right are wall paintings of the Buddha Shakyamuni and his disciples the sixteen Arhats (Netenchudru) and Pema Lingpa. On both sides of the altar, there are the volumes of the Kanjur (Buddhist canon).

Social and Cultural Functions

The temple is private and inherited by the lama. However, the meals of the sixteen monks who study at the monastery are sponsored by the monastic body of the Trongsa dzongkhag and Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck. Some of these monks come from Gantey in Phobjikha and some are from Tshakaling in Mongar.

The temple holds a number of functions for the wellbeing of the community throughout the year:

  • 10th day of the 2nd month of the Bhutanese calendar: Tsechu, with masked dances such as Drametse Ngacham, Peling Ging Sum, and Durdag performed, as well as a dance for the protective deities Gyap and Gyem. This dance for protective deities is dedicated to Lama Drub Zhidar Pelzangpo, founder of the temple; the lama carved the masks himself.
  • 5th month: Monks conduct prayers for three days for the wellbeing of the country, king, and people
  • 4th day of the 5th month: Peaceful Fire ritual (Zhiwai Jinseg) to purify the place and commemorate the subduing of Nyala Dum
  • 4th day of the 6th month: Commemoration of Drugpatshezhi (the day Buddha taught his 1st sermon)
  • 7th month: Mani (prayer recitation) for 3 days, similar to the summer retreat and sponsored by Nyala villagers
  • 8th month: Ritual for Drolma (Tara), headed by the lama
  • 9th month: Monks conduct a Mahakala (Gonpo) ritual to appease all protective guardian deities
  • 10th month (winter): Lama is accompanied by his monks and travels from village to village performing annual household rituals

The rituals performed on the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th months are sponsored by the lama and his family.

8th Nyala Lama Palden Rinchen, 37 years old


Geshe Draphu Gedun Rinchen (1926–1997), 69th Je Khenpo. (1972). Lho’i chos ‘byung gsar pa. Thimphu.


Dawa Zangmo, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2014


Yannick Jooris

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