Shema Jangchubling Lhakhang


Shema Jangchubling Lhakhang (Wylie; shes ma byang chub gling lha khang Tibetan; ཤ་མ་བྱང་ཆུབ་གླིང་ལྷ་ཁང་།) is a privately owned Lhakhang located in Shema village under Yaba Chiwog, Sangbay Gewog, Haa. The are two routes to reach this remote temple: if one travels from Haa Dzongkhag Headquarter, a drive for about 55 km towards Sangbey-Gakiling tri-junction from where one has to take the left road till another junction after crossing a bailey suspension bridge, the left road leads to Sangbay Dungkhag and the right one to Mochu village and then to Yaba Chiwog which is 21 km and from Yaba chiwog, one has to walk for about an hour to reach Shema Lhakhang; the other alternative route is from Samtse. It will take two days on foot to reach Shema Lhakhang from the Sibsu Border through the mule track.

There are thirteen households near the temple (D.T. Sherpa, personal communication, December 24, 2021). In front of the Lhakhang, there is one kitchen that is also used for making butter lamps during auspicious days.



There is no written record of the origin and foundation of the Lhakhang and the oral narrations have been used for writing its history. D.T.Sherpa (personal communication, December 24, 2021) explained that the Lhakhang was constructed in the early 20th century by his family. He said that the need for the Lhakhang was realized when his grandfather, Jigme Tenzin Sherpa observed that the villagers were left without a temple to hold proper rituals or offerings and he then decided to construct a temple in the village. Though it was privately constructed by him and his family, the villagers fully supported his initiative and helped him to construct the temple. Jigme Tenzin Sherpa is considered as the founder of the Lhakhang and he served as the temple caretaker till his death. After his death, it was taken care of by Rinchen Sherpa who was his son . Rinchen Sherpa died at the age of 82. After his death, his son and current temple caretaker, Dawa Tshering Sherpa took care of the temple.

The temple was damaged in 2011 due to an earthquake of  6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale which also struck Nepal and Sikkm.[1]  In Haa dzongkhag, at least thirteen chortens and fourteen Lhakhang were also reported damaged (Namgyal, 2011). Shema Lhakhang was one of them. The temple was left without renovation till 2020. The reconstruction began in February 2021 and is still under construction. For the reconstruction, the Lhakhang received 1.5 million ngultrums from the government (P. Sherpa, personal communication, December 25, 2021).

As the Lhakhang is under construction, all of its relics and religious books are currently kept in the kitchen house which is located at a few meters distance from the Lhakhang. This temporary shelter is taken care of by the caretaker Dawa Tshering Sherpa.

The Sherpas are one of the the Tibetan-related ethnic groups inhabiting several high valleys in northeastern Nepal since the 15th century and some migrated to western Bhutan in the late 19th century. They follow the Nying ma pa sect of  Buddhism, but their practice is a mixture of Buddhism and animism. Sherpa culture is based on a clan system (ru). The name “Sherpa,” Tibetan shar pa, means “easterner,” referring to their origin in the eastern Tibetan region of Khams. The Sherpas began migrating to Nepal around the 15th century. According to Encyclopædia Britannica (2022), the greatest number of Sherpas live in Nepal and speak Nepali in addition to their own language. Sherpas are also found in the Sikkim state of India and the south of the Tibetan region of China.[2]

The presence of Sherpas in Sangbay gewog would have probably been through the migration of Nepalese since the end of the 19th century. Since, Sikkim shared a close territory with Haa Dzongkhag, it was easy for people to come from Sikkim to Haa. Another possibility is that the Sherpas may have come from Samtse regions as Sangbay gewog is adjacent and north to Samtse Dzongkhag.

In Shema Jangchubling Lhakhang the main relic is a Sakyamuni Buddha statue and it also has other important statues including Guru Padmasambhava, Amitayus, and Avalokiteshvara. Those statues were brought from Tibet during Jigme Tenzin Sherpa’s time. The Prajnaparamita Sutra in 8000 verses (Wylie; yum bsdus pa shlo ka stong brgyad pa Tibetan; བརྒྱད་སྟོང་པ།) and a collection of religious work (Wylie; mdo mang, Tibetan; མདོ་མང) written on traditional Bhutanese paper (Wylie; ‘brug shog, Tibetan; འབྲུག་ཤོག) are also installed in the temple (D.T. Sherpa, personal communication).Till now, the temple is entirely managed by the temple caretaker’s family.

Architectural Style

The newly under construction temple is a one-storied traditional structure built with stone, wood, cement, and CGI roofing and has a cupola but without a sertog, golden pinnacle. The roof is painted with red color. The Lhakhang is adorned with a red stripe along the upper wall. Due to a shortage of budget, it is uncertain when the construction would be completed. The old Lhakhang is said to have been a one-storey Tibetan-styled structure (D.T. Sherpa, personal communication December 24, 2021).


Social and Cultural Functions

Shema Jangchubling Lhakhang does not have any social and cultural activities as such. However, the caretaker offers butter lamps during auspicious days lsuch as on  the 15th and 30th days of each month of the Bhutanese calendar.



Dawa Tshering Sherpa, the current caretaker of Shema Lhakhang

Pema Sherpa, the former carpenter of Shema Lhakhang

Nima Sherpa, the son of the current minder of Shema Lhakhang

Ap Penjor, the former caretaker of Mochu Lhakhang



Rinchen Dorji, Associate Lecturer, College of Language and Culture Studies, Taktse, Trongsa



Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Sherpa. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

Gartaula, H. N., & Niehof, A. (2013). Migration to and from the Nepal terai: Shifting movements and motives. Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 29–51.

Kharat, R. S. (2001). The Ethnic Crisis in Bhutan : Its Implications. India Quarterly, 57(1), 39–50.

Namgyal, T. (22 September, 2011). Haa – In a desolate state. Kuensel.

Wangmo, D. (1997). Of rainbows and clouds: The memoirs of yab ugyen dorji. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.



[1] A total of five hundred eighty-five houses were assessed for damages in Haa dzongkhag and one hundred thirty-three were reported to have suffered major damages, which was beyond repair (Namgyal, 2011).

[2] According to Dutt (1981), it was the British, who first perceived the relatively empty land in the southern tiers of Bhutan and encouraged the Nepalese settlement from the late 19th century. Gartaula and Niehof (2013) state that in Nepal, the historical evidence shows that migration to the terai (which includes India and Bhutan apart from Nepal) increased after the eradication of malaria in the late 1950s.