Bjoka Lhakhang /Lhendrup Choling Lhakhang


Bjoka is situated around an hour’s drive from Panbang. A feeder road branches off the Zhemgang – Pangbang highway that leads to Bjoka Central School and Bjoka Gewog Centre via Ngangla Gewog. It takes approximately 20 minutes to drive to Bjoka from Nangla. Bjoka community lhakhang sits on a ridge that joins the two villages of Bjoka and Nangla. The lhakhang is located east of Bjoka village, and the community road that connects Bjoka and Nangla passes next to the temple. The road to the temple is just a few meters’ diversion from the main community feeder road.


According to the caretaker Ap Thinley, the temple was built by one of the Sumthrang Choejes from Bumthang Ura, parallel to the time of the construction of Punakha Dzong, which started in 1637 and was completed in 1638.  Therefore, the temple could have been built by the 32nd Sumthrang Choeje Gyelsey Nyodrup Gyeltshen who was also known as Nyodrup Gyatso (1610 – 1666). The Lower Kheng region was then under the religious patronage of the Sumthrang Choejes. Today, the lhakhang is being taken care of by the families of the caretaker, with Ap Thinley being the fifth generation to care for the lhakhang.  The lhakhang has been renovated twice but the exact dates of these renovations were not recorded. The temple was offered to Gangteng Trulku in the 2000s, and is thus under his guidance at present and the Nyingma Peling tradition is practiced in the temple today.

Architecture and Artwork:

The one-storey lhakhang sits at an elevation of 1200m. Three walls of the lhakhang that face south, west and east directions are made of traditional stone masonry with rectangular cut stones held together with mud for mortar. The wall that faces the northeast direction is made out of wooden beams and planks consisting of three sets of traditional carved windows. The entrance faces north and a small open room with two prayer wheels is attached to it. The foundation of the lhakhang is set on stones with some cement plastered on the outside for strength. The three stonewalls are white washed from the outside, and the wooden walls are engraved and have traditional paintings on them.

Two engraved central wooden beams support the temple’s ceiling, and Corrugated Galvanized Iron (CGI) sheets are used for roofing. A secondary roof on the top is painted yellow and is adorned with a golden pinnacle (serthog). The temple room has wooden floors and is used for conducting rituals and prayers for the community.

The three stonewalls inside the temple are plastered with mud and covered with murals. The main lhakhang is a one-room temple while the main altar is constructed in a namdagosum (“three door of clear perception”) style. On the left, facing the main altar is a mural of Guru Tshengye (the eight manifestation of Padmasambhva) and the saint Pema Lingpa while a mural of Sangay Rabdun (the seven Buddhas) covers the right wall.  The main altar contains statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, Chana Dorje (Vairapani), Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) and Jampelyang (Manjusri). An old mural of Phurpa (Vajrakila) covers the left wall inside the main altar.

A two-storey stone house for the caretaker is built to the northeast of the temple, and a small one-storey communal kitchen lies to the north. The ground around the lhakhang is evenly flattened and raised above the ground with the help of stonewalls. It serves as a place for rituals and performances for the village. Two recently built concrete gates are to the northeast and southwest of the lhakhang.

Social and cultural functions:

  • Kanjur (the Buddhist Holy Scriptures) recitation is an annual event and it is recited for three days from the 10th day of the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • A three-day Bon ritual called A’hoi Lhasol for the local deity is conducted on the 7th month of the Bhutanese calendar.
  • The annual Chodpa or the festival of the community is celebrated for four days on the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

The community’s lama and monks of the new monastic body (Dratshang) and local lay-practitioners conduct the festival as well as perform the mask dances. The new dratshang was started by Gangteng Trulku at the old Basic Health Unit structure with around 10 – 15 monks.


Ap Thinley, 65, Konyer (caretaker)


Tshering Om Tamang, Assistant Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa, Royal University of Bhutan, 2018.

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