Ogyen Choling Lhakhang is located in Ogyen Choling village, which is approximately 80 kM drive from Zhemgang, and a thirty-minute walk from Khomshar primary school. The temple is approximately 3km away from Bardo gewog centre and it provides a nice vantage point for Khomshar Village. The temple is situated at an altitude of 1410 metres above sea level.
The name ‘Ogyen Choling’ is derived from the many sacred sites associated with Ogyen Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). ‘Ogyen’ is a name associated with Guru Rinpoche and ‘Choling’ means a place where Guru Rinpoche’s teaching was propagated. The temple was built particularly for the well-being of the people and also to promote Buddhism.
No written record regarding the establishment of the temple is available. According to oral sources, it is believed that some 300 years back the place was used as a retreat centre by gomchens (lay-practitioners) of Khomshar. Despite the lack of written record, the temple is revered because of its association with Guru Padmasambhava and his disciple Terton Choki Wangchuk (Guru Chowang, 12th century AD) who supposedly visited Bhutan. According to Khenpo Leki Tandin (will be referred as Khenpo Tandin), initially, the temple was constructed by a disciple of the Druthob (also known as Lama Ngawang Phuntsho), who resided at Miling (a huge mountain range), which is 4 hours walk from Khomshar village. Later, Druthob’s disciple Lama Changpo’s sons i.e. Khandrula and Drubala built a small temple at Ogyencholing.
There are several sacred sites nearby the temple. Towards the northwest of the temple one can see many sacred sites such as kurje (body print of Guru Rinpoche), Ah Ja (self-arisen thousand letter Ah on a cliff), Guru Uzha (Guru’s hat), Nima-Dawa Rang-jon (self-arisen sun-moon), a prayer beads consecration rock (a rock which consecrates the prayer beads upon placing them under the rock), a rock resembling a yak’s head. It is said that on visiting these sacred sites one gain immense merits.
Towards the north of the temple, there are drupchhus (holy water) of Guru Rinpoche and Khandro, a Guru’s Chagkarje (Guru Rinpoche’s walking-stick-print), a Guru Latsho, now only remnants of the lake can be seen, and a Khandro’s Tangti (drum) on a rock.
On the east side of temple, there are Khando’s Uzha (Dakini’s hat), a Dungkar Rangjon (naturally arisen couch), a Zhabje (foot print) and a Zhabpe (knee print) of Khenpo Thubtan. The Khenpo’s footprints miraculously emerged in front of the monk Sangay Chodra, during the Nyunge Karpoi Chaja on March 14, 2014 coinciding with the 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar, Wood Male Horse year.
In 2015, a new Zangdopelri temple was built on a 25 decimal land at the initiative of the lineage holder Lama Yeshey Paljor (74) with support from well-wishers, villagers, and the government.
Architecture and Artwork
The informant said that since there is no written record, no one knows what architectural style was used in the initial construction and the two subsequent renovations. According to Khenpo Tandin, it was during the fourth renovation that a traditional Bhutanese architecture was used to build a three-storey building that accommodates both the temple and the lama’s residence. However, the temple had to undergo renovation for the fifth time because of the 2009 earthquake, which partially destroyed the walls of the temple.
The sixth renovation started in 2015 and is still under progress, and it is expected to complete by 2019. Now, the architecture of the temple is completely different from the previous ones since it is constructed as a three-storey Zangdopelri to accommodate large numbers of devotees.
The main relics inside the temple are sacred text such as the Bum Sungjonma (speaking one hundred thousand verse of Buddha’s teaching), Jatongpa sungjonma (speaking eight thousand volumes of Buddha’s teaching), Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), Guru Padmasambhava and Zambalha (God of wealth). The relics inside the temple are sacred, ancient and wish-fulfilling because they are said to have been brought from Tibet during the construction of Samye monastery in the 8th century AD.
Whatever paintings existed inside the temple were destroyed during the major renovation. Thus, there are no wall paintings, but the people of Khomshar village have plans to decorate the temple after the completion of the new Zangdopelri,
Social and Cultural Functions
Khomshar village has three prominent and ancient temples older than Ogyen Choling temple. Nevertheless, this temple has played a vital role in the community for more than 200 years. Khenpo Tandin claims that in the past the two gewogs of Bardo and Shingkhar relied on the gomchens (lay-practitioners) of Ogyen Choling temple to perform rituals, rabney (consecration ceremony), death rites, recitations of the scriptures, and other religious events.
The annual Nyungney Karpoi Chaja (fasting prayer) is one of the celebrated events of the temple. It is held from the 1st to the 18th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar every year. The exact date that started this tradition of ritual is not known; however, the oral source said that the tradition of Nyungney has existed for over 200 years and the practice still continues today. Khenpo Tandin said that the Nyungney was started under the patronage of Drubala and presided over by gomchen KherKher la, a disciple of lama Changpo (lineage holder of Samdang Choeje). The Nyungney was started mainly to benefit the Khomshar community since wild boars destroyed crops and tigers harmed the domestic animals and people. Today, the Nyungney karpoi Chaja is presided over by Lama Yeshey Paljor along with lay-practitioners.
The regular rituals are also performed during Yarngo (waxing moon) and Marngo (waning moon) on the 10thand 25th days of every Bhutanese month. Usually on Yarngo (waxing moon), the Kencho Chidue (Essence of the supreme Jewels) ritual and on Marngo (waning moon) the Rinchen Threngwa (precious garland) rituals are performed.
The village community sponsors the Nyungney karpoi Chaja while the other rituals at the temple are funded privately. Other rituals and gatherings are often conducted at the temple depending on the need of the community. There are 10-15 gomchens (lay practitioners) at Khomshar who perform all the rituals at the temple and around 30-40 meditation practitioners at Ogyen Choling temple (now known as Ogyen Choling Zangdopelri).
Khenpo Thubtan Dorji Rinpoche, 47, founder of Donagag Wosel Dargyeling Monastery.
Lama Yeshey Paljor, 74, spiritual head of Khomshar Village.
Khenpo Leki Tandin, 37, Principal, Donagag Wosel Dargyelng Monastery.
Sangay Phuntsho, Associate Lecturers, College of Language and Culture Studies, RUB, 2018.539