Phuntsho Choling Gonpa


Phuntsho Choling Gonpa sits at an elevation of 3100 m and is a three hour walk (approximately 6 kms) up the mountain from Taktse, a village located 23 km from Trongsa town along the Zhemgang–Gelephu highway. There is no motor vehicle road to Phuntsho Choling Gonpa.

The gonpa is surrounded by a flower garden in the midst of a thick forest on the top of a hill, with no other settlements of any kind around the site. Despite its isolated location, however, Phuntsho Choling Gonpa stands out against the green mountain with its whitewashed walls and red roof, typical of a Buddhist temple in Bhutan.


There was once a written document on the gonpa and its history, but sadly, it is now inexplicably lost, so only the oral history remains. Bhutanese people believe that the gonpa was built on the site where Rechung Dorji Drakpa (Ras chung rdor je grags pa, 1083/5–1161) meditated. Rechungpa, as he is known, was one of the main disciples of Jetsün Milarepa (rje btsun Mi la ras pa, c.1052 – c.1135 CE), who is one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. In various biographies, Rechungpa does not appear to have travelled to Bhutan.

Around 1240, on the other hand, Lorepa (Lorepa Wangchuk Tsondrub, 1187–1250), a disciple of Tsangpa Gyarey, founder of the Drukpa School in Tibet, did come to Bhutan, where he established small temples in the Bumthang valley. One hypothesis would be that Lorepa might also have travelled to the Drakteng region; the oral tradition may have conflated the two lamas.

Local story states that when Rechungpa went in search of a place to meditate, Samten Om, the deity of the area, placed flowers along the path to lead Rechungpa to the location where the gonpa now stands. However, other stories suggest that the gonpa was built on the spot where one of Rechungpa’s disciples meditated.

Local people say that there were three lakes in the area where the lama meditated and that the temple was built on top of the middle lake. These lakes are now dried up, but a former caretaker says that one can still hear frogs croaking beneath the temple in the summer.

The structure has been renovated only once (2007–2008) since it was originally built by local villagers, but there is no written record of precisely when it was built, nor who oversaw the construction.

Architecture and Artwork

The temple is a simple two-storey structure constructed out of mud and stones in the traditional Bhutanese method. A kitchen is attached to the side of the gonpa, and a small chorten (stupa) sits in front.

Statues of Guru Rinpoche, the Buddhas of Three Times (Tenpa Tshokhor Sum), and a lama said to be Rechung Dorji Drakpa are placed on the altar. Some religious artifacts, including statues of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and the local deity Samten Om, are sealed within the altar.

The old wall paintings inside the temple were eroded, so when the temple was renovated in 2007–2008, new artwork with the image of the Buddha of Confessions (Tungshags Lhatshog) was painted on one side of the temple.

Social and Cultural Functions

It is believed that gomchens and anims (lay practitioners) from the village took care of the gonpa in the past, although no written documents remain to confirm this statement. Today, Taktse villagers voluntarily care for the temple, which belongs to the community. During auspicious days, villagers make offerings in the temple, but as the gonpa is far from the village, it serves only as a place of worship on these days and there are no regular caretakers.


Jigme: Current caretaker of the temple, Taktse village, 2014
Sonam Penjor (AKA Dagap): Former caretaker of the temple, Taktse village, 2014
KenchoTashi: Former gomchen, Gonpa, 2014


Rechung Dorje Drak. (2011, October 15). Retrieved November 20, 2014, from <>.
Roberts, P.A. (n.d). The Biographies of Rechungpa. Retrieved from <…/Biographies%20Rechungpa.pdf>.
Routledge. (2007). Lorepa. Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, New York. Retrieved from <>.


Rinchen Dorji, Asst. Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2014


Yannick Jooris

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