Dechenling/Tangsibi Lhakhang

Description

Dechenlinglhakhang,locally known asTangsibilhakhang,is situated in the heart of Tangsibi village. There are 65 households, which are divided into two areas—Goenpaand Trongpa. The village community appoints the caretaker; nonetheless, all the65 households are responsible for the proper management of the lhakhang. Two farm roads run through the villagetill Dechenlinglhakhang. The lhakhang stands out with its typical imposing structure, whichadds beauty and sanctity to the village.

History

There is no written record regarding the establishment of the temple, hence the exact date of the construction is not known. However, the local people believe that it was constructed by a treasure discoverer,TertonSherabMebar in the 14thcentury. The Tertonwas born in Kham, Eastern Tibet (1255-1315 or 1375-1435), and he is believed to have visited SingyeDzong in the east and then traveled west and settled in Tashiling, Tangsibi.In Tangsibi, Tertonidentified many holy places and named the villages ending with a “ling” suffix such as Gaki-ling, Tashi-ling, Kha-jeling, Samten-ling, andDechen-ling.He built a temple in the middle of Dechenling village, which came to be known as Dechen-Ling lhakhang, the first and the oldest temple in the village.

Oral sources say that when the construction of Dechenlinglhakhang was completed,TertonSherabMebar requested TertonPemaLingpato consecrate the lhakhang. TertonPemaLingpa offered a ritual bell (དྲིལ་བུ) and a rattle (ཀྲང་ཀྲི) that he had discovered from a place called Gyegdong(གེགས་གདོང་) as an appreciation for TertonSherabMebar’s work. Later on, those treasures were installed as sacred relics inside the statue of GuruRinpoche.

The lhakhang was renovated several times since its establishment; unfortunately, the original architectural designwas lost in many of its renovations over the years. At present, not many people in the community know what the original temple looked like; however, a few surviving village elders assume that it must have beena one-storied temple. The present two-storied building was extended and renovated by Dasho Karma Gelek in the 1980s. Later in 1994, the village headmanJamtsho, who was then the Gup of Uragewog,renovated and modifiedthe temple, and then Lam Tashirenovated it in 2003.

Architecture and Artwork

Dechenlinglhakhang is a two-storied temple built in the traditional Bhutanese architecture. There are two rooms near the main entrance of the temple: one room is usually reserved for Lam who stay overnight during occasions, and the other room is used as a preparation of rituals cakes. In the 1970s, the front façade of the temple faced towards the east and had two main entrances connected by two traditional ladders. The prayer wheel was attached to the left side of the temple. Later in the 1980s, the directionof the temple was changed and theprayer wheel was brought down to the first floor and installed on the right side of the temple. Though the temple had undergone numerous repair and expansion; however, the site remains the same. The main temple is on the first floor and the ground floor is used as a storeroom during rituals.

There is a huge courtyard surrounded by a traditional wall. Mask dances, traditional dances and village meetings are usually held in the courtyard. On the left side of the main entrance, there is an annex, which is used for religious rites during the festival. To the right side of the temple, there is a small white ancient chorten, but no one seems to know its history and how long it has been there.

On the right side of the main altar, there is the goenkhang of YabJambayShinji(ཡབ་འཇམ་དཔལ་གཤིན་རྗེ) and Yum Akarzati(ཨེ་ཀ་ཛ་ཏི).In the main hall, there are arestatues of Guru Rinpoche with KhandroYesheTsogyalon the right side and Mendaravaon the left side of Guru Rinpoche. Other statuesinclude:Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), BuddhaShakyamuni, Amitayus (Buddha of long life) and Dorjesempa(Vajrasattva). There are also sets of Kangyur (teachings of the Buddha) and Tengyur (commentaries on the teachings).

There are treasures like a pair of cymbals (རོལ་མོ),a drum (རྔ) and many more, but local people do not know when they were discovered. Somesay it was TertonSherabMebar who discovered the treasures, while others are of the belief that it was TertonPemaLingpa who discovered those treasures andoffered them to TertonSherabMebar. Later, TangsibiDung offered eight small golden statues to the lhakhang because he was afraid of people stealing them from his house. With regards to the wall paintings inside the temple, it was sponsored by Tashi, the formerLamNeten of Zhemgangdzongkhag.

Social and Cultural Functions

Numerous religious rituals are conducted in the temple throughout the year as per the Bhutanese calendar.The rituals are carried out by lay-practitioners (Gomchens) and many of these social and cultural functions are usually sponsored by the Tangsibi community. The following are some of the significant festivals and rituals conducted in the temple:

  • From the 15th – 19th day of the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar, Tangsibi Mani is celebrated and this event is sponsored by the community. The Mani festival is interspersed with numerous mask dances. This festival was founded by TertonSherabMebar in the 14th century and now the local people commemorate the deeds of Tertonthrough this celebration. The Mani is celebrated in Dechenling temple by the 65 households. The 65 households are divided into three groups—GoenpaTsawa,TrongpaTsawa, and ZurbaTsawa. They are the ones who sponsorthe festival for three days. The Tsawas have to manage the food items and drinks to be served to the monks, mask dancers and the guests who attend the celebration.
  • On the 15th day of the 10th month of the Bhutanese calendar, the Khe-wangLha another local festival is celebrated. This festival is about the mask dance of the two deities—Yab and Yum. This festival is conducted to appease the deities and bring peace in the locality. The celebration is only for one day.
  • From the 8th – 10th dayof the 4thmonth of the Bhutanese calendar,Kanjur (Buddhist Canon) recitation is organized
  • From the 8th – 10th day of the 7thmonth of the Bhutanese calendar, a fasting and praying ritual(Nyungney) is sponsored by the community.
  • From the 13th – 15th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese calendar, a Baza Guru Dungdrup/ Mani Dungdrupis organized.

Informants

AgayDorjiNidup, former caretaker, Dechenlinglhakhang

Lam Tashi, former Lam Neten, Zhemgang

Researcher

PemaYouden, Asst. Lecturer, College Of Language and Culture Studies,Royal University of Bhutan, 2019