Thongdrel Temple


The impressive Thongkhar Temple lies below the Meling Mountain range in the beautiful village of Dunglabi. The temple is approximately 7km away from the Bardo Gewog Centre in Khomshar. It takes about 10 minutes to walk up from the main road to the temple.


The temple was constructed in 1994, corresponding to the Earth Pig year by Ap Pema Thinley. The temple covers an area of 50 decimal and it is a privately-owned temple. Before the construction of the temple at the present site, there was a small meditation hut. The present temple is built in the Tibetan style architecture. After the completion of the temple, Lopen Sherub Dorji, a lay practitioner named it as Thongkhar, which means “seeing complete view” of the community.

According to oral sources, it was constructed to spread Buddhism in the community and also to meet the need of the Dunglabi community. Now, the villagers use the temple for retreat, to make offerings, and to conduct various rituals.

Nearby the temple, there are two sacred sites, which are considered to have been blessed by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century AD. Approximately 300m away from the temple is a sacred site called Ugyen Na Ney, which means “the sacred place where Guru Rinpoche stopped”. At the sacred site, there is a Zhugthri (throne) of Guru Rinpoche.  According to oral sources, Guru Rinpoche did not travel beyond Dunglabi village; instead, he turned around and made his way towards Lo Nga Ney.

The community of Dunglabi believes that when there is a long drought, they come and pour water from their shoes on to the sacred seat of Guru Rinpoche, and there would be instant thunder, hail stones, and rainfall.

Enroute to the Gewog centre, roughly 20 minutes from Ugyen Na Ney, there is a huge rock below the farm road that is rectangular in shape. The villagers believe that the rock has foot prints of all the animals in the world, thus people pay homage to this rock and consider this a sacred site.

Architecture and Artwork

The temple is built of stones, woods, bamboos, and mud, and is roofed with CGI sheets.  It is painted in traditional style, both inside and outside.  The temple was not renovated even once ever since its construction, but it still looks magnificent. Though the temple is privately owned, it is under the responsibility of the nine households of Dunglabi community. Rinchen Tenzin (58), a lay practitioner is the present owner (and also the caretaker) of the temple, and he wishes to expand the existing temple if the Bardo gewog administration provides financial support.

The main relics inside the temples are statues of Sangay Oepamey (Buddha Amitabha), the Historical Buddha and a Mani Dungkhor (prayer wheel). The statue of Sangay Oepamey is about two years old and it was donated by Karma, a lay practitioner. The statue of the historical Buddha is as old as the temple.  Rinchen Tenzin said that the statue of historical Buddha was his family’s heirloom, but he placed the statute as a sacred relic in the temple for the benefit of all sentient beings.  Besides, the temple also owns a few ritual instruments and religious scripts, which the community borrows when they need them for private rituals.

Social and Cultural Functions

The temple plays a vital role in the well-being of the community. In the past, four lay practitioners: Lopen Sherub Dorji, Richen Tenzin, Singye Duba and Sangay Choden completed their Nyondro (preliminary practice) and a 3-year retreat in the temple.

Although there are no major social and cultural functions, the Yar Ngo and Mar Ngo Tshechus are conducted twice a year i.e. on the 11th and 5th month of Bhutanese calendar corresponding to the summer and winter solstices under the patronage of Rinchen Tenzin and Lopen Sherub Dorji. The people of Dunglabi gather to mark the importance of the event. Prayers and rituals are performed during Tsechus, but Chams (mask dances) are not yet instituted. Usually, the Tshechu is presided over by the lay practitioners of Khomshar village.


Rinchen Tenzin, 58, Dunglabi community, Bardo Gewog, Zhemgang

Sangay PhuntshoK, 31, Associate lecturer, College of Language and Culture of Studies


Jigme Tashi, Assistant Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa

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