Nyechen Dongkarla stands on the hilltop between Paro and Thimphu valleys. It is the great sacred place and meadow on the mountain of about 3655 meters above sea level. It is about 18 kilometers from nearest main road.
We began our journey to Dongkarla through the pine forests and twisted unpaved road that climbs up the hills to the mountains, which gave us extraordinary feelings. We passed by several holy sites, village and beautiful sceneries. Snow-capped mountains surrounding it are most stunning thing that makes journey awesome. Sighting Mt. Jomolhari, Gangkar Puensum and other mountains in line are first time experience. It was remarkable. We were blessed. Felt like looking from the sky.
Dongkarla was blessed by the Terton (treasure discoverer) Tshering Dorji in 15th century. He was the student of Drubwang Rinchen Chodor at Mendrup Goenpa. While he was studying there, he saw a bright blaze on the pinnacle of the mountain. Following the illumined blaze every night, he sent a monk to ensure it. Upon reaching there, monk saw the lake surrounded by a pair of deer, where a statue coloured dark was on the surface.
Monk after reaching back to the monastery reported the same. So, then the terton reported same to Drubwang Rinchen Chodor. The instruction of building his seat from Drubwang came as light in the darkness. The terton built three-storeyed temple as his seat over the lake where monk found a dark-coloured statue floating on the surface. The temple was recently restored under the initiative of Paro dzongkhag, to the two-storeyed temple.
The main statue of the temple is Buddha Statue. According to caretaker of the temple, it is believed that in future, the statue will speak. He also stated that if one spot the statue in life time, it is as good as seeing Buddha Statue of Dorjidhen (Bodh Gaya), in India, which is famous pilgrimage site. The Choe-Long-Trul Sum (Trikayas) Statues and other statues are housed there. There is Kelpai Marmey (Butter Lamp of epoch) stationed inside the temple.
We can also see the footprint of terton Tshering Dorji on the stone slab. It is preserved still today, as one of the important relics of the temple. Terton’s Lekbum (volume of scriptures), Ritual bell and Vajra (dorji) are also preserved there. The Treasure Ritual Dragger (Ter-Phub) is also one of the many sacred relics in the temple.
Terton Pema Lingpa’s treasure Yidam Thongwa Donden statue, which is about a foot-tall, is also conserved there. It was believed that the statue illumined the mountaintop prior to founding the temple. Terton Pema Lingpa revealed the treasure from Medar Tsho in Bumthang under the pressure of Chieftain of Choekhor valley. He asked Terton to reveal the treasures to prove himself as the Terton. Terton’s time to reveal the treasure hasn’t matured but then forced by the Chieftain to do so. Terton then submerged into the lake and he came back with a coffer from the lake, which was offered to the Chieftain. The Chieftain was infuriated upon seeing the coffer, pulled out the sword and walloped coffer with it, where three statues flew away from the coffer to different directions. One of the three statues is the Yidam Thongwa Donden. Still today, we can see the sword mark on the left shoulder of the statue.
The copper urn is also housed inside the temple. As per the caretaker, one man made to Dongkarla and took away the copper urn from the temple. Thief who tried to steal urn remained circumambulating second last stupa when daylight breaks. He tried to escape keeping urn near the stupa, but his right hand wedged to it. With no option, thief had to cut his hand to escape the scene. That’s how we can see the hand still in the Goenkhang (inner chapel). Inner chapel also houses the statue of Dongkar Tsen (the deity). The black house at the entrance is the Goenkhang.
A small house attached to the Goenkhang is the shrine dedicated to Naga (serpent) that face the entrance and stupas. Female Naga by name Thinley Om promised terton to take care of all the properties belonging to the temple. This is the main reason for thief circumambulating chorten when daylight breaks. It is said that the visitors can get blessing of wealth and child.
Phu-Ding Goenpa is located few kilometers from Dongkarla. There we can see the Stone-Pillar. It is said to be of same height of Drubthob Thangthong Gyelpo. He then flew to nearby place called Tachog Lhakhang. The name of the place was derived after Drubthob Thangthong Gyelpo flew from that place. Drubthob is pioneer architecture of an ancient Bhutan and still today, his iron chain bridge and temples are famous in the country.
After driving few kilometers down the valley, is Mendrup Goenpa. In 8th century, Guru Rinpoche did Medicine related meditation at the site. However, there wasn’t authentic concierge during the visit, so I could not get genuine information. This temple was still under reconstruction under the patronage of 9th Gangteng Trulku.