Dorithasa Temple


Dorithasa village is located towards the South-West of the Tergo La[1] (mountain of treasure’s door) in Gakiling Gewog approximately two-and-a-half-hours drive towards south from Haa town. There are two ways to interpret the term Dorithasa. First, the abundance of stones (རྡོ་ rdo) gave it the name Dorikha meaning the land of stones. Second, the Tergo La which is situated on the top of the village has footprint of Guru Rinpoche, hoofprint of the divine horse Balaha[2] and the body image of Guru Rinpoche, all in the form of stones, thus flourishing the name Dorikha. The term ‘Thasa’ attached with Dorikha basically came into existence due to the village’s location at the foot of the mountain. Until recently, the village was considered to be one of the remotest and concealed villages in Haa district, however with Samtse-Haa national highway passing through the village, people now have access to both Haa and Samtse towns for commercial purposes.

According to Khenpo Tandin Sithup, in the olden days, the village was concealed and remained separated from rest of the communities in Haa or Samtse because of two reasons: (1) In winter people could not travel because the pass in Tergo La would be sealed with thick snow and (2) from the south people could not move due to unavailability of bridge over the Amo Chu. These prevented people of the village to go out or let others to come into the village thus leaving the village cut off from other communities. Presently, the Samtse-Haa highway passes through the village and the village has a BHU and a school.


The village’s temple known as the Dorithasa Lhakhang is located at around 2,769 meters above sea level. The two storied Lhakhang is situated on a hillock above the village and houses  a statue of Guru Rinpoche as the main relic. The statue is said to have brought from Talo monastery in Punakha by Nangsa Lam Sherub Tharchen[3] for the benefit of the people. Other relics include statues of Chugchi zhe (Avalokiteshvara with Eleven faces), Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Tshepamey (Amitayus Buddha), Buddha Sakyamuni, and Jampelyang (Manjushri). The murals on the walls depicts the Guru Tshengye, Zhabdrung Phunsumtshogpa, and the local deities – Medzong tsen and Gangtsen. Along with these, the temple also houses the sacred shrine (dgon khang) for the local deities Medzong tsen and Gangtsen.

Located behind the Lhakhang is the residence of Lam and the caretaker. The ground floor of the Lhakhang is used as a guest house during annual rituals and Tshechus. Since the Lhakhang is under renovation, the relics are presently stored in a small room nearby the temple. However, coupled with the need for a major renovation, the Lhakhang with a budgetary assistance of Nu. 5 million from the gewog development grant, the villagers have started constructing a new Lhakhang on the same spot. Like the old one, the new Lhakhang will be two storied-building with dormitories around. The dormitories will serve as winter residence for the monks of Dorikha[4] Lhakhang.


Historical background and Significance

Though exact date of the construction and establishment of Dorithasa Lhakhang is not known, locals believe that the temple was built towards the later half of the nineteenth century by Nangsa Lam Sherub Tharchen who was believed to be a layman plying from Chengmari in Samtse by transporting goods. On one of his daily travels, it is believed that he revealed his plan of not returning home, flung his goods down the cliff and fled through Phuntsholing and Pasakha to reach Punakha where he joined the monkhood. The oral narrative accounts that he was unhappy with his layman’s life which is full of endless suffering.  Moreover, he believed that it was time for him to follow the path of his predestined life as a monk.

During his monastic education in Punakha, he proved to be a bright and diligent student and shouldered many important responsibilities before returning to his village. Upon reaching his village, he built Dorithasa Lhakhang as a symbolic backbone of Buddhism in the village. It has Guru Rinpoche’s statue as the main relic. The statue is believed to be the work of Zhabdrung Sungtruel Chogley Yeshi Namgyel (1851-1917) brought from Talo[5] in Punakha.

In the 20th century, it is said that Zhabdrung Chogley Jigme Tenzin, the sixth speech incarnation of Zhabdrung visited Dorithasa and spent around a week giving initiations and teachings for the benefit of the sentient beings – in particular to the people of the locality. He visited the place upon the invitation of people of Sombaykha and Dorithasa to avert hailstorms which were destroying their crops. The book ‘Of Rainbows And Clouds. The Memories of Yab Ugyen Dorji’ By Wangmo. D, (1997, p.67-68) bears the following extract:


After coming out of his retreat, my brother Lama (Choley Jigme Tenzin. 6th Zhabdrung speech Incarnation 1919-1949) was invited by the people of  Haa Sambaykha and Durthasa. He was accompanied on this trip by former monk who was a disciple of Chogley Yeshi Ngodrub. My brother Lama performed religious ceremonies and gave blessing in Durthasa for seven days. The villages of Durthasa particularly wanted my brother Lam to avert the hailstorms that destroyed their crops. He also consecrated their temple. We were later informed that the rain came on time and the crops got better.

Ever since the visit of Zhabdrung Sungtrul Jigme Tenzin (1919-1949), various venerable Lams visited the temple among them Geshe[6] Kunga Rinchen. The villagers entrusted the Geshe to take care of the Lhakhang. Afterwards, Ngawang Tenzin, a former Lam of Paro Taktshang hailing from Dorithasa took care of the Lhakhang. He initiated the construction of a new Lhakhang (present Lhakhang which needs major renovation) because the old one built earlier was partly destroyed. Though the Lhakhang belongs to the public of Dorithasa, it has been taken care by Ap Gado and his family for about seventy years now- Ap Gado and Aum Wangmo were in-charge for around fifty years and their son-in-law Ap Dodo for twenty years. However, towards the end of 2020, Ap Dodo resigned from being the caretaker of the temple because of his other daily activities which hampered the proper offerings in the temple. The care of the Lhakhang was then entrusted to  Dorikha Lam.


Social and Cultural Functions

Though Dorithasa Lhakhang played an important role in the community, only regular Tshechu and annual offerings with nothing special and grandiose was performed in the olden days. In those days, people faced difficulties in the absence of a motorable road and had to travel around three days to Haa or two days to Samtse to buy essential items such as rice. Moreover, they did not have proper irrigation water for growing rice. Now. the lives of people have eased because of the irrigation water. They do not have to buy rice but they are able to sell their rice to the neighboring communities instead. With this development, they have started an annual Mani Bumde from 12th to 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar. The wealthy and devotees sponsor the annual event.  Similarly, coinciding with Zhabdrung Kuchoe, the Lhakhang hosts Tshechu. Other events hosted by the temple at present include the Trelda Tshechu in the 5th month and Lhabab Duechen in the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar. During such events, people of the community offer cash, cereals, dairy products and labor force according to their abilities.



Ap Dodo (Former Caretaker)



Sangay Thinley, Associate Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies



Wangchuck (Ashi), D.W. (1997).  Of Rainbows And Clouds. The memories of Yab

 Ugyen Dorji. Bhutan.

[1]  Tergo La is mountain between Dorithasa and Haa, located around 3750 meters above sea level.

[2] Balaha is horse name. It is said to be the riding horse of Ugyen Guru Rinpoche.

[3] He is the founder of Dorithasa temple.

[4]  The temple near Tergo la under Samar Gewog, Haa Dzongkha.

[5] Talo  Gonpa/Dzong in Punakha was established in 1767 by Lam Chogtul Jigme Singye (1742-1789). It became the seat of Mind Incarnation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.

[6]  Title for Buddhist academic degree holder for monks.