Trong Lhakhang


The two-storey Trong temple is located in the neighborhood of Zhemgang town, overlooking the magnificent Zhemgang dzong. It is situated at an elevation of 1955m above sea level. It overlooks the heritage village of Trong. The temple is a traditional Bhutanese stone house with an enclosed flagstone courtyard.


There is no written record regarding the establishment of the temple, it was probably built in the early part of the 20th century According to oral sources, Dzongsup (guard) Karma initiated the construction of the temple and the villagers contributed labour in building a one-storey temple since there was no temple in the locality to conduct religious or other social functions. In 1980, the village headman and the people renovated and extended the temple to the present day two-storey building.

In the right hand corner of the temple is the goenkhang (altar of the protective deities) and the main deity is Palden Lhamo Remati (Shri Devi).

The oral tradition here seems to mix two stories involving two Lama Zhang.

One story has it that the deity had followed Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa (a 12th c Tibetan lama).  Palden Lhamo Remati was believed to be the Kasung (protector) of Lama Zhang. After Lama Zhang’s departure to Tibet the deity Palden Lhamo was displeased because no one made daily offerings and rituals to appease her, so she wreaked havoc in the village. The people could not bear the wrath of the deity and they supposedly threw the statue and the deity’s belongings at the source of the Mangdechu river.

The other story is that there was a Lama Zhang in the early 18th century in Bhutan who gave his name to Zhemgang. He was killed by the villagers on the order of the Desi Druk Rabgay and the name Trong means killed.

Legend says that a statue had appeared mysteriously in Bji village under Nubi Gewog in Trongsa, and this statue was believed to be the deity Palden Lhamo. The people in Bji village had similar disturbances and misfortunes, hence they also threw the statue into the Mangdechu river. It is said that a man from Bertang/Berti in Zhemgang district, found the statue on the bank of the Mangdechu river and he took the statue home. The legend says that he also faced similar obstacles and calamities, and the village elders advised him to take the statue to Tagma Gonpa.

As per oral sources, a century later the statue was brought to Trong temple from Tagma Gonpa. At that time late Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche (1913-2016) was residing in Zhemgang, and one day the Rinpoche in a clairvoyant insight told the caretaker that a guest would arrive at sunrise the next day, and that the caretaker should keep tea ready to welcome him.

Early morning the next day, Chatral Rinpoche informed the caretaker that the guest has arrived, and the caretaker saw the Rinpoche pick something from the window and place it in the altar. Later, Chatral Rinpoche revealed that it was Palden Lhamo Remati, Lama Zhang’s Kasung. The Rimpoche told the people to take good care of the relic as it would protect the village from natural disasters, diseases, and misfortunes. This precious relic was never shown to the public.

Architecture and Artwork

Trong lhakhang is a two-storey building in traditional Bhutanese architecture enclosed by a 2m high wall. At the entrance hallway are a few prayer wheels and a small store room. The main altar is on the first floor.

In the main hall, set against the wall is an ancient altar. The main statue inside the altar is Guru Nangsi Zilnon (semi-wrathful Padmasambhava) with his two consorts Yeshey Tshogyal and Mandarava. On Guru Rinpoche’s right are the statues of Sangay Tenpa (Sakyamuni Buddha) and the first Zhabdrung (17th c.). On the left of Guru Rinpoche are statues of Tshepamey (Amitayus, the Buddha of long life), and Chukchizhay (11-faced Avalokiteshvara). The room adjacent to the temple has numerous small statues of Buddha and Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), offered in honour of the deceased by their family members.

The temple walls are adorned with beautiful murals of Gongdu Lhatshog (wrathful form of Gongdu Heruka cycle) on the left, and on the right-side wall are paintings of Guru Tshengay (the 8 manifestations of Guru Rinpoche), Tshela Namsum (Three Deities of longevity), and a statue of Lama Zhang. The paintings of Nep (host/local deity) Kyebu Lungtsen and Nep Dorji Rabten are also there on the wall.

Social and Cultural Functions

Trong lhakhang is the center of religious, social, and cultural functions in the Zhemgang town. The new born babies are brought to the temple for blessings. The villagers seek the protection of Palden Lhamo Remati in difficult times, or when people have some projects to accomplish. The caretaker makes daily soelkha (ritual offerings) to Palden Lhamo and the local deities.

A religious committee coordinates the collection of cash donation or in kind from the community to organize the ritual offerings and other social functions. The gomchens (lay-practitioners) and gelongs (monks) perform the rituals. The following rituals are conducted in the temple throughout the year:

  • From the 13th-15th day of the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar, there is a Nyungney (fasting and prayers).
  • On the 10th day of the 3rd month of the Bhutanese calendar, people offer ritual on the Zhabdrung Kuchoe (the death anniversary of the Zhabdrung)
  • In the 4th month of the Bhutanese calendar, Zhingdrup (sukhavati, ritual for well-being) is organized
  • On the 18th day of the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar, a ritual offering called Palden Lhamo’s Tshogbum (100,000 offerings to Palden Lhamo) is conducted
  • On the 4th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar, a ritual offering is organized on Drukpa Tshe Zhi, (the first sermon of Lord Buddha).
  • From the 13th-15th day of the 7th month of the Bhutanese calendar, Nyungney (fasting and prayers) is organized.
  • From the 15th– 22nd day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar, there is a recitation of the Kanjur.
  • On the 18th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar, again Palden Lhamo’s Tshogbum (100,000 offerings to Palden Lhamo) is conducted.


Lopen Chompala, 49, caretaker, Trong Temple.


Tshering Yangki, Asst. Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa, Royal University of Bhutan, 2017.

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