Dozhong Gonpa is a modest two-storey traditional building located in Dozhong village, just above the Trongsa–Bumthang highway, approximately 15 kms from Trongsa town. Although its official name is Dozhong Gonpa, it is often called Dorji Gonpa. “Dozhong” means “stone tub,” referring to the bath used by the local female deity, Yulha Menmo Palden Dolma. The stone tub is located below the highway, approximately 700 meters from the gonpa, and the menmo’s residence is located about 500 meters from the gonpa.
According to Lama Yeshi Dorji, who has been serving as the lama of Dozhong Gonpa, the temple is linked to Lopen Tsultrim Tharchin, who was born in Tsangkha village in Tangsibi gewog, Trongsa district. Tsultrim Tharchin became a monk at the Trongsa dzong at an early age and underwent all monastic responsibilities until he became a chopon, one with authority over offerings. He later retired from the Trongsa monastic community and went into retreat where Dozhong Gonpa now stands. He made his retreat house (tsamkhang) at Poesi Shingi Tsawa, but this house is now completely destroyed. There he used to practice the Guru Drakmar Thukdam (prayer of the wrathful Guru), and as a result he gained empowerment and imprinted his foot and handprints at Zhabje Thang, near his meditation place. He also made a blessed spring (drupchu) appear at Drupchu Gang, just below the Trongsa–Bumthang highway.
Tsultrim Tharchin went on to found Dozhong Gonpa, and he established a cremation ground (durthoed) at the back. According to Lama Yeshi Dorji’s biography of Lama Monlam Rabzang (1878-1945), Lama Tsuthrim Tharchin’s heart did not burn during his funeral cremation, and it was kept as a relic in the gonpa in the small “heart-stupa.” Trongsa dzongkhag locals consider the cremation ground to be blessed, and they make an effort to perform their funerals there.
The exact dates are not certain, but it can be estimated that Lama Tsultrim Tharchin lived in the second half of the 19th century because the 5th Zhabdrung Thuktrul Jigme Chogyal (1863–1904) and Trongsa Penlop Dungkar Gyeltsen met him and had a religious affiliation with him.
According to the lama’s biography, when the Zhabdrung was on his way from Drametse to Punakha on the old Bumthang–Trongsa highway, he stopped at Mendagang, where Trongsa monks would eat their lunch as they migrated on foot to their summer residence at Bumthang’s Jakar dzong. The Zhabdrung noticed a fire blazing out from the retreat centre and thought that a great yogi must be living there, and he decided that the following day he would like to meet this man. Lama Tsultrim Tharchin had already had a clairvoyant vision of this meeting, and he worried that there would be nothing to serve the Zhabdrung. The local deity, however, brought ingredients for tea to the kitchen that night, and early the next morning the Zhabdrung came alone on a horse from the Trongsa dzong to meet the lama. The Zhabdrung was surprised to see the wonderful reception he received and asked the lama how he knew about the visit. The lama replied that there was no one in Bhutan who did not know the Palden Drukpa; they then continued a discussion on religion over tea.
In the end, the 5th Zhabdrung asked the lama to accompany him as an assistant, but the lama gently refused, saying that he was old but that he hoped to see the Zhabdrung soon at Talo Gonpa. The Zhabdrung asked the lama for a token, whereupon the lama offered a piece of sheepskin used for a mattress, as he had nothing else to offer. The Zhabdrung indeed used this sheepskin as a mattress at his residence, and it is now a relic at Punakha dzong.
According to the biography, Dozhong Gonpa is considered a sacred place of the protective deity Palden Lhamo. While enroute to Tibet, Palden Lhamo was unhappy with the shortage of ritual offerings made to her at the Trongsa dzong. Lama Tsultrim Tharchin had greeted her at his residence with an incense offering, and later he prevailed on her to remain in the Trongsa dzong by promising that the Trongsa monks would conduct a special offering for her. The ritual of Chobgey Lhamo is now performed in the Trongsa dzong on the 18th day of every month in favor of Palden Lhamo.
Lama Tsulthrim Tharchin’s first reincarnation was Lama Monlam Rabzang (1898–1945), born in Tshangkha village. Lama Monlam Rabzang’s biography mentions Lama Tsulthrim Tharchin and his residence, Dozhong Gonpa. The gonpa was restored in 2010–2011, and a large cremation ground was completed in 2014.
The main statue is Buddha Amitabha (Oepame), accompanied by statues of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal; the Buddha of Long Life (Amitayus/Tsepame); the founder Lama Tsulthrim Tharchin; Guru Rinpoche; the eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara (Chuchigzhe); Varjrapani (Chagnadorji); Hayagriva (Tandin); and Mahakali (Palden Lhamo). The heart stupa of Lama Tsulthrim Tharchin is also on the altar, and there is a statue of the protective deity, Menmo (Menmo Kathrab), on a rack.
The wall paintings in the temple represent the Buddha Amitayus (Tsepame); the 84 Mahasiddhas; the Eight Manifestation of Guru Rinpoche; and the Neten Chudruk, the Sixteen Arhats (disciples) of the Buddha.